FOLKFEST WRAP: Fest Not Just For Old Folks

It may not be your first guess, but the folk festival is a great place for teenagers. I’m now 13 years old, but my mom always tells me that Gallagher Park was the first place that she let me wander around on my own. It seems like not only the audience at the FolkFest, but also the performers are getting younger over the years.

Last year I interviewed Quinn Bachand, a 13 year old guitarist performing with Ashley MacIsaac and this year 16 year old Lucas Chaisson is the youngest person to wow the crowds. “It’s definitely cool just to hang out and chat with all these people that I’ve listened to for so long, it’s a cool experience,” Chiasson described in an interview over the weekend.

“There’s free everything and you get to hang out with all these guys. I hung out in Alejandro Escavedo’s trailer yesterday,” said Lucas as he explained the pros of being a performer. Now, I don’t have the actual statistics but it looks to me as though the FolkFest viewers seem to be more youthful these past few years. This year there was a panic at my junior high as some people were worried that they wouldn’t be able to go to the festival because the tickets sold out so quickly!

What’s interesting is that most teenagers attending the festival have been going since they were young and forced to by their parents, but now they wouldn’t dare miss it. Annie Hayward, 13, has been going to the FolkFest since she was 2 years old. “It’s really a community event, so you see all sorts of people here,” she said as she tried to explain why she liked the festival so much. Ben Harper, Basia Bulat and Patrick Watson were her favourites this year.

Many of the volunteers at the Edmonton FolkFest are also quite young. Isaac Wiznura, 15, is volunteering on the crew of EnviroPower. Every morning he has to get up early to clean up all the garbage that people have left on the hill. “There’s just so much positive energy here... it’s just so amazing!” he explained, “I think that if anybody hasn’t come to FolkFest make sure you do at some point.” Dala, Melanie, Patrick Watson, Ben Harper and Kate Reid were his picks.

In my group of FolkFest family and friends there are a lot of young people. What’s great is that throughout the weekend all the kids dispersed throughout the festival site, but for the Finale on Sunday they all came back. We’d all rather die than miss the singing of Four Strong Winds. As cheesy as it sounds, that’s my favourite part of the whole FolkFest. The whole hill is lit up with candles and you can hear every single person singing along: Four strong winds that blow lonely, seven seas that run high.

Of course the singing of Four Strong Winds sadly also signals the end of this year’s FolkFest. It’s a time when all the great memories from the last 4 days run through my head, including a word of advice from 16 year old Lucas. “Just get out and play, wherever you can. I started out playing open mikes, and now I’m at the Edmonton FolkFest.”

more in Music Review     |     posted Aug 9th, 2010 at 12:56pm     

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