When last year’s flood submerged Prince’s Island Park, it seemed unlikely that the Calgary Folk Music Festival would happen. However, volunteers rallied to the cause and in just over a month, Folk Fest opened it’s gates and fans descended on the park with their tarps.
“We learned how important we are to the city,” Folk Fest artistic director Kerry Clarke says. “That we mattered. The public and the city and our volunteers really stepped up.”
Much like the “hell or high water” campaign by the Calgary Stampede, Folk Fest organizers were determined to prove that there was no way that Folk Fest would be canceled.
“We did learn that we’re quite adaptable and that we’re able to make changes as needed,” Clarke says. She added with a laugh, “We also learned that we work fairly well under stress.” Clarke says that while organizing the festival a year after the flood, there was some apprehension.
“I think there was a certain amount of ‘oh my god, is there going to be another flood?’,” Clarke says. “There was a certain amount of trepidation but also a lot of excitement and a feeling like ‘OK, we got through that one. Is that the worst that it’ll ever be? Probably.’ And so we can go forward.”
Some of the changes made last year because of the flood have carried over to this year. Last year they had to move the Family Zone to the northeast side of the festival grounds. It remains there this year, which has removed the possibility of a climbing wall that was located in the area during past festivals.
But the biggest change is the decision to continue programming on the Twilight Stage on Thursday evening. Last year due to flood damage there were fewer stages on the island, so organizers had to move artists to the Twilight Stage and to a free stage in Eau Claire Market.
They have also kept the free stage in Eau Claire Market, which Clarke says was extremely successful last year.
“There were probably 1,200 people at any one time. It went crazy,” Clarke says. “I thought people would not be as engaged as they are on the island but the majority of the people were our audience members who took the little trek across the bridge. Then there were people who kind of got an idea what the folk vibe was.”
The festival’s artisan market, which had to be moved to Eau Claire Market last year, is back on the island, but because the vendors did so well, another market is being curated by Market Collective.
“We’ve really expanded the footprint of the festival,” Clarke says.