this article originally ran in the owen sound sun times on July 29, 2021
Written by James Keelaghan
On an uncharacteristically cold weekend in May, five of us gathered for a mission. Jaret Koop, our operations manager, Mike Varsava, our site coordinator, Steve Allen and Indy Mahadeo, our technical coordinators and I, left Kelso Beach Park in a little convoy and headed north for 13 minutes — yes we timed it — to a district called Sutacriti. One of our prospective backyard concerts is on Ishwar Drive and we were there to check out the specs.
What we saw pleased us — a rolling green lawn with fields and a glimpse of Georgian Bay. Out came the measuring wheel and the measuring tape, the clipboards and the pencils, as we sketched out where the stage would go. There was a lovely deck and room that could act as a green room behind where the stage would go. It was about as perfect as could be. Better yet, the people hosting are longtime attendees of Summerfolk and they were excited about the prospect of the festival coming to them. And it will!
We are calling it the Sutacriti Stage and on Saturday August 21 you can plunk yourself down in that backyard and watch shows by the ineffable Danny Michel and the sultry rhythm and blues of Shakura S’Aida. If you attend on Sunday, you’ll see Lion’s Head’s very own force of nature Samantha Martin and the deep, deep repertoire of Ken Whiteley.
We headed South again and repeated the process;
At the Rrampt House with a lovely, shaded backyard that hosted its own concerts last year, you’ll find local favourite Marshall Veroni as well as Evangeline Gentle, an amazing songwriter coming to us from further away!
Riverside Stage, nestled in a bend of the river just north of Harrison Park, with stately willows that lean down to offer you the cover of their leaves in this yard and the Rrampt House are two of the smallest venues at the festival, but we’ll make up for it with some big tunes from festival veteran duo, Emilyn Stamm and John David Williams on Saturday and Sebastian Ostertag is whipping up something extra special for us on Sunday.
7th street Retreat. I love a pie-shaped lot and not just because it makes me think of pie. This lot is a shady green property nestled along the edge of the West Rocks. In fact, the property line is the trail to access the West Rocks Conservation Area. Could it get any better? Why yes, yes it could. You’ll be able to see Birds of Bellwoods–a high energy quartette from Toronto with great melodies and snappy lyrics and the folk roots gumbo and irresistible rhythm and blues of Ray Bonneville. They are just two of the acts you’ll see over the weekend.
Creamery Hills Farms, on the south end of the city just past Inglis Falls Road, is just about as perfect as it gets. Cows, a barn, a meadow, a stream, a fish hatchery. All you need to make this extra special is some fine music. On Saturday you’ll find festival favourites Danny Michel and Kelly Prescott and on Sunday you’ll be able to discover the cuban rhythms of OKAN and the soulful pop music of Emm Gryner.
The Doctor’s Inn was not on our tour that blustery May morning. It came to the fold through a contest we held to find the last backyard for the festival. The Doctor’s Inn is just east of the city on Grey county road 15, a classic Grey county brick house with a massive lawn, a pond and so much character you’d think it was a play by Shakespeare. Because it’s so new to us, I am still getting the program in place but that should be ready by Saturday.
Why is Summerfolk doing the festival this way in 2021? We want to present live music but realized that there was a slim chance that we were going to be able to do a regular festival at Kelso Beach Park. Having a limited number of spectators book into a venue for the afternoon makes presenting music possible while minimizing the risk. You stay in one location for the show and the entertainment will come to you. It means you have to choose what to see and what you won’t see it all, but that has always been the perennial problem at Summerfolk — you just can’t see it all.
Each location will have its own porta-potties. Yes, you even get THAT Summerfolk experience as well as hand washing stations. There will be volunteers who will make sure that each group is spaced to comply with health regulations. While you can be unmasked if you choose while seated, we’d like you to be masked when moving around the venue and while in line, etc. We want this to be as safe as possible and we are counting on your cooperation.
Summerfolk will be happening all around Owen Sound Aug 21st and 22nd. You can see our venues at summerfolk.org/venues. For information on who is performing where, to buy tickets and more, visit summerfolk.org.