I’m a relative newcomer to Edmonton Folkfest, having only been to four of them (I first moved to Edmonton on the Monday morning after Folkfest 2008.)
Every year the folkfest people tinker with some aspects of the festival to make the well-run thoughtful weekend even better for more people. Some of those little changes are easy to be grateful for right away – for example, the closing of Stage 4 in order to give good sound quality on Stages 3 and 5, and leaving the Stage 4 area as a place to enjoy shade and relative quiet in a loud busy weekend, and moving the lower tarp lottery to behind the Muttart Conservatory where there is also grass, shade, and a little space to spread out and make a bit of noise early in the morning.
But sometimes the little changes are harder to get used to. This year, I was disappointed in the new location for the bike lockup.
I love the Folkfest arrangements for a lighted supervised bike parking area with claim checks. Since I worked out a cycling route to get from my home in Ritchie to the Folkfest site without challenging hills or busy streets, I’ve almost always gone to Folkfest by bike. It has always seemed easier to me than learning where to park nearby and carrying my chair and other gear to and from the parking, or travelling by bus also with a significant amount of walking-uphill-with-chair. But with the bike lockup at the Bennett Centre, just outside the main entrance, it was never quite big enough and getting out of there in the dark through the congestion of the taxi stand was always challenging. So this year the bike lockup was set up on top of a hill behind the Muttart Conservatory – near the top of the Stage 6 viewing area, but of course there are some fences in between. It’s a great setup. Except that with my limited energy, I have to walk the bike up the final hill and rest before unpacking my gear, and then I have to walk most of a kilometer to the gate (1.2 km total from the bike corral to Stage 6) carrying my stuff, and at the end of the night there’s an uphill walk again. And I can’t do it. Not and have fun all day and have energy to dance. I still love the idea of biking to Folkfest, but on Saturday and Sunday I took taxis.
Once I got in the gate, everything was great. Interesting tasty food, good friends, musicians both familiar to me and unfamiliar, and good weather as long as I stayed. (I didn’t stay long enough on Sunday night to encounter the thunderstorm.) My favourite new musical discoveries of the weekend were Good for Grapes, from Surrey BC, and The Head and The Heart, from Seattle. I also loved dancing to Delhi2Dublin (whom I’ve heard at previous Edmonton Folkfests and at Blue Skies in rural Ontario) and I loved being swept into memories by Bruce Cockburn’s voice in his mainstage show.
Photos: Sean MacKeighan of Good for Grapes, dancer and singer of Niyaz, box office with their job done.
More photos: Makana, Langhorne Slim