This Article originally ran in the owen sound sun times on july 8th, 2021

Written by James Keelaghan 


Last year, as summer was starting to peak, I was feeling hemmed in. In the part of my life that is the Artistic Director of Summerfolk, I missed booking artists and putting on shows. In the performing, singer-songwriter part of my life, I felt the effects of four months without a live gig. My friend, Joel Leblanc, and I decided to start doing concerts in my backyard.  


Given the size of the backyard, 50 people could easily fit in, properly spaced. Doing two shows in an afternoon, we could get music in front of 100 people. It was a success and shows were performed through the end of September.


By fall last year, it had become apparent that we would not see a return to a normal Summerfolk in 2021. Jaret Koop, Operations Manager, and I discussed ways to get live music in front of audiences on Summerfolk weekend — even if we were limited to having 100 people  outdoors and 50 people indoors.


The plan is based on the backyard concerts I had been running. Using a combination of backyards, fenced outdoor public spaces, and some of the halls around town, the goal is to be able to get music in front of as many as 1,300 people a day.


So that’s what we are going to do with Summerfolk this year.


On August 21st and 22nd, we will present music in up to 20 venues on Saturday and Sunday. All concerts will be in the daytime with three performers in each of those venues between 12 and 4 pm. Patrons will buy into a venue for the afternoon and the music comes to them. In all, there will be over 40 individual performances per day. The ticket will also be good for the live streams happening on Saturday and Sunday night.


There are plans for some venues in Kelso Beach Park — the amphitheatre, tents in the north end of the Park and the Gazebo, including the Children’s Area — but we will also be moving the Festival into the city using indoor spaces like the Roxy Theatre and the Heartwood Concert Hall. Harrison Park and The Railway Museum are also on the radar. Then there are the back yards! We have been invited to program music into some fabulous private spaces. Rolling lawns and cool shady places, river views and rustic barns are going to be some of the backgrounds for great music. Summerfolk will truly be all around Owen Sound.


And there are some fantastic performers lined up for you. Some familiar faces and names like Shakura S’Aida, Samantha Martin, and Danny Michel and some people you’ve never heard of — Blues, Celtic, and World musicians and Singer-Songwriters.


If you have a hankering to view the festival from the inside out, we are always looking for volunteers. Volunteering is a great way to see the festival and to help produce this unique event.


Stay tuned over the next 2 weeks as we announce the artists and venues. Tickets will go on sale July 21st, a month before the festival.


Now the proviso. All our venues will comply with public health regulations in force on the weekend of the 21st and 22nd of August.  If the public health situation moves back into lockdown or stage-one-like restrictions, we won’t be able to present the live portion of the festival, but will continue with the virtual stream. The bright spot is that Ontarians have been stepping up and getting vaccinated and are continuing to follow the public health guidelines. If we all do our part over the next few weeks, we have a chance to see live music re-emerge in Owen Sound.


Thank you for helping us to beat the virus and to bring back live music.


The Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival will be happening all around Owen Sound on August 21st and 22nd this year. You can find out more information at and on all our social media outlets.


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