Digging Roots led a round dance in the Amphitheatre on Sunday night
Digging Roots led a round dance in the Amphitheatre on Sunday night

The Georgian Bay Folk Society (GBFS) is officially declaring the 40th anniversary Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival a success. The festival enjoys a glowing reputation among fans and performers for the beauty of its venue, quality of music, and laid-back friendly atmosphere.  Summerfolk40 lived up to the reputation  with sunny weather, a breathtaking line up, eye catching artisans, and fabulous food creating the positive vibe. This year, the festival welcomed 15,000 visitors on to the Kelso Beach site over the four day event. “We wanted the 40th anniversary to be special,” said GBFS president Phil Bye, “and I think we succeeded; I heard positive comments from performers, vendors, and patrons all weekend”.

“This is one for the books” agreed Artistic Director James Keelaghan who scheduled the 40+ acts for all seven Summerfolk stages. The festival line-up paid homage to the past and looked to the future, bringing back old favourites and introducing new performers.  For the first time in its 40 year history, Summerfolk expanded for a fourth night of music, opening early with a Thursday night Birthday Blues Bash featuring Matt Andersen. “Matt was one of the most popular artists when he played Summerfolk in 2012” said Keelaghan “,and he set the bar higher this year”.
David Essig returned forty years after playing the very first Summerfolk in 1976. Someone snapped a picture of him tuning his guitar at the inaugural festival and that photo served as the poster for two years and inspired the GBFS logo. American folk duo Trout Fishing in America first played Summerfolk in the late 80’s and have returned regularly since. During Trout Fishing in America’s main stage set on Saturday night bass player Keith Grimwood  told the crowd that Summerfolk always impresses him as a multi-generational festival.  He was preaching to the choir. The audience singing along under the stars in the Summerfolk amphitheatre was made up of those generations of Summerfolk fans.

Long time festival patrons often treat Summerfolk like a musical treasure hunt and try to discover impressive new acts. Those music lovers hit a gold mine at Summerfolk40 with acts like Donovan Woods, Jojo Worthington, and the award winning Claire Lynch Band. First time Summerfolk performer Joel Plaskett  wowed the mainstage audience on Friday night.  On Saturday morning he shared a workshop stage with the enigmatic Steve Poltz. Festival goers were talking about Poltz all weekend after what seemed like an impossibly energetic  main stage performance featuring his chart topping song-writing, gut busting impressions, and captivating stories. The Summerfolk Youth Discoveries winners – all under the age of 21 – made their festival debuts in the Down by the Bay tent and shared workshop stages with veteran performers throughout the weekend.

Artisan craft vendors lined the paths between Summerfolk stages with booths offering one of a kind work. The juried art show recognized Owen Sound based Outside Instruments with a people’s choice award for a cello made from a canning pot. Barrie based Ruby Diego Designs was recognized for a stunning dress and Rossbilt Tincan Banjos / Ukeleles won best booth.  The ribbon winners faced stiff competition from the other artisans displaying work including upcycled jewellery, puppets, pottery, and stone carvings among others.

The 40th anniversary is a significant milestone for Summerfolk and a special anniversary tent displayed memorabilia collected over the last four decades and offered birthday cake.  We paid considerable attention to Summerfolk’s legacy but the GBFS was also thinking about the organization’s future.  “We put a lot of effort and time into children’s programming” said GBFS President Phil Bye “because they’ll be the one’s bringing their kids in 30 years”. Bye himself has been involved with Summerfolk since the beginning.

The GBFS is a non-profit organization with roughly 700 volunteers who dedicated their time and talents to make Summerfolk40 happen.  With the last of the stages and equipment leaving Kelso Beach, it’s already time for the GBFS to begin thinking about Summerfolk41 which will run August 19-21th, 2016. The GBFS has created an endowment fund to ensure that Summerfolk and its other community programs continue for another 40 years. The fund has already surpassed $100,000 thanks to initial donor support and matching government funding.  More information about the GBFS, Summerfolk, and the Summerfolk Endowment Fund is available online at www.summerfolk.org.

3 Responses

  1. “For the first time in its 40 year history, Summerfolk expanded for a fourth night of music”

    Just wanted to point out that sometime around 1990 – I really can’t recall just when – Summerfolk held a free concert on the Thursday night. Perhaps if one were to dig through the Sun-Times archives, the particulars might be found there.

  2. This was my first time back at Summerfolk since the Main Stage was dedicated to Stan a very long time ago. I was so delighted to have to opportunity to be there to celebrate 40 years, and what a wonderful celebration it was. The programming was fantastic, the site is as beautiful as ever and the people were warm and friendly. Summerfolk has grown since I was last there but maintains its charm and intimacy. The new Down by the Bay Stage was outstanding, having unimpeded sight lines was terrific, I will be suggesting other festivals look into these structures. I will also say if possible keep up with the Thursday night concert, it was a wonderful way to kick off the weekend and the show was outstanding. If I had any complaint it is the vendors were so fabulous I spent far too much money!! I would like to say a huge congratulations and thanks to James on his wonderful programming skills, the music was so diverse and of the highest quality. Also a heartfelt thank you to the staff and volunteers for a job well done. I am so honoured to be a part of the folk community in this country and Summerfolk is a shining example of why we should all be proud. Hope to be back next year and if you can you should be too!!

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