Calgary Folk Music Festival Celebrates 40 Years

Calgary Folk Music Festival Celebrates 40 Years
Calgary Folk Music Festival Celebrates 40 Years
Summer Music Festival

Calgary Folk Music Festival Celebrates 40 Years

Everything you need to know to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Calgary Folk Music Festival.

As one of Canada’s longest running and most cherished annual music events, the Calgary Folk Music Festival has served as a summer getaway smack dab in the heart of Calgary for the past 40 years. Hosted in Calgary’s beautiful Prince’s Island Park, this four-day, family-friendly, genre-bending affair, unites some of the finest roots, world and indie musicians, songwriters and troubadours from around the globe with upwards of 53,000 Calgarians and visitors alike. 

The 2019 edition will once again be a celebration of diverse traditions, deep musical roots, richly layered cutting-edge programming, and above all else, community. So, whether you’re a festival vet yearning to enjoy a couple of old favourites, a curious first timer looking to be turned on to something new, or a casual music listener just along for the ride, the Calgary Folk Music Festival has got you covered.

Let’s take a look at how to make the Calgary Folk Music Festival your most unforgettable festival experience of the summer.

Supress from menu
Calgary Folk Music Festival mainstage tarpies

Get a front row seat at the main stage (Photo credit: Travel Alberta/Mike Seehagel)

What to Expect at This Year’s Festival

As is often the case with music festivals, before you can get to the fun stuff, it’s a good idea to get a lay of the land.

This year, attendees will have a chance to take in performances by some 71 artists from 15 countries and 8 provinces across 7 stages over the course of the event. That’s 6 daytime stages to catch a concert or one of the often-magical collaborative artist sessions, as well as two nighttime stages (one doubles as a daytime and nighttime stage) where you can catch all your favourite headlining acts. 

Beyond the music, festivalgoers will be able to peruse the artisan market, sample some delicious festival eats (the food trucks are kind of legendary), or grab a refreshment inside the Big Rock Beer Garden where, wait for it, children are always welcome (told you it was family-friendly). 

If comedy, spoken word poetry and touring war stories are more your speed, you’ll want to check out the Talk Tent, where this year, comedian and CBC Radio host Ali Hassan, Cree-Dene-Métis poet and filmmaker Zoey Roy, and veteran publicist and Canadian music industry legend Richard Flohil will all be doing their thing. 

If you’re bringing the little ones along, they’ll be plenty for them to do as this year’s Family Zone will feature a variety of games and activities including a skateboard ramp, as well as performances by popular children’s artists Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and Shelley Bean & The Duckety Muds.

Supress from menu
Excitement for the Calgary Folk Music Festival

Get your tickets to the Calgary Folk Music Festival (Photo credit: Travel Alberta/Mike Seehagel)

Where to Get Tickets 

Let’s talk tickets. A 4-day single-user adult pass will run you $200.00 CND plus tax while a 4-day single-user senior/student/youth pass is $135.00 CND plus tax. Adult pricing is for ages 18-64, however, post-secondary students with a valid ID are excluded. The Calgary Folk Music Festival also offers single day passes at a variety of price points depending on the day, so it is certainly worth investigating if you’re only keen on checking out a handful of acts. All tickets come with in and out privileges. Oh, and, kids under the age of 12 are admitted for free!

Supress from menu
Calgary Folk Fest tarpies

Scope out the perfect spot in front of the main stage (Photo credit: Calgary Folk Music Festival/Doug Callow). 

Tips for Living Your Best Fest

Whether you’re coming to the festival from out of town or you already call Calgary home, planning to stay downtown and close to the festival site is key to keeping the weekend fun flowing. Consider grabbing a room at the festival’s host hotel, The Westin Calgary, where the party often continues well into the night, or at one of a handful of other local hotels, like the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire, Regency Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, or International Hotel, which are also offering discounted rates to festival attendees. 

When you’re ready to make your way to the festival grounds you’ll need to take a short trip across one of the three bridges that connect the neighbourhoods of Eau Claire, downtown Calgary (both are accessible via the south side of the park) and Crescent Heights (accessible via Memorial Drive and located on the north side of the park) to Prince’s Island Park. You can access the park easily via public transit on the Calgary Transit C-Train, car, bicycle or on foot.

Once you’re inside the festival grounds, first things first, you’re going to want to scope out a perfect little spot in front of the main stage and bust out your tarp, tapestry or summer serape and set up a home base for the day. If you feel inspired to decorate your casa with streamers and other decorations in honour of the Calgary Folk Music Festivals 40th anniversary this year, that’s cool too. 

You’re also going to want to make sure that you have the following things handy. A backpack, sweater or jacket (it can get cold at night), a raincoat (Calgary is the sunniest city in Canada, but on the off chance it does rain, best not to be a soggy mess), suntan lotion (like I said, sunniest city in Canada), bug spray, snacks (lots of snacks), and a reusable water bottle (so important). The days are long so do everything you can to stay hydrated. The festival has a water truck on site so that you can fill up your bottles for free. 

Supress from menu
Evening Headliner Calgary Folk Music Festival

Music fans will love the Calgary Folk Music Festival (Photo credit: Travel Alberta/Mike Seehagel)

This Year’s Lineup

One of the best things about the Calgary Folk Music Festival is its programming. The entire festival is a carefully curated opportunity for music lovers to both witness and participate in what becomes a real-time blending of traditional and contemporary sounds.  

Probably best expressed through the much-talked-about artist collaborations, which bring together a wide breadth of musical acts, many of whom are meeting for the first time on stage, for a series of in-the-round mashups that happen live in front of the audience each day. Here you’ll get to see artists stretch beyond their comfort zones to spontaneously create something brand new. How often do you get to experience that? 

Regardless of what you like to crank on the car radio or sing in the shower, the Calgary Folk Music Festival truly captures the full gamut of musical genres. This year, you’ll have a chance to catch everything from the joyously hypnotic Niger rock of Tal National and the atmospheric, emotionally piercing songwriting of Sharon Van Etten to the harmony-laden folk meets alt-pop of Half Moon Run. If Cuban jazz percussion is more your thing, there’s Yissy García & Bandancha, and if you’re into gritty old school R&B, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats always deliver on that front. Serpentine folk-rock harmonies? No problem. Be sure to check out Lucius. Or maybe catch a set by the likes of Scottish iconoclasts Belle & Sebastian, Prince protégée and Queen of Percussion, Sheila E, or veteran Canadian indie rockers the Rheostatics, among countless others. You won’t be short on options.

The festival will also have a free stage set up outside of the festival gates just across the bridge as you arrive on the island from Eau Claire on Saturday and Sunday with live music from 10:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. 

Check out the full 2019 Calgary Folk Music Festival lineup.

Supress from menu
YYC Food trucks at Calgary Folk Fest

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Calgary Folk Music Festival (Photo credit: Travel Alberta/Mike Seehagel)

40th Anniversary Fun

As part of Calgary Folk Music Festival’s 40th anniversary this year, festival organizers have put together a special double album entitled Cover Art, which features 21 of Alberta’s finest artists re-interpreting iconic songs from key artists who’ve performed over the festival’s storied history. All of the songs were recorded in March and April of 2019 at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre.

If you’re interested in hearing local artists like The Dudes, Corb Lund, Lorrie Matheson, Lindi Ortega, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald and others put their own spin on songs by musical greats such as Buffy Sainte-Marie, Chris Isaak, Elvis Costello, The Tragically Hip, and The Weakerthans among others, be sure to check it out. 

You can purchase the CD onsite during this year's festival or pre-purchase the vinyl in advance of the fall album release. The album will also be made available across most popular streaming services.

Supress from menu
Calgary Folk Music Festival beer gardens

The Calgary Folk Music Festival is all about the people (Photo credit: Travel Alberta/Mike Seehagel)

Why You Don’t Want to Miss CFMF 2019

So, what makes Calgary Folk Music Festival the kind of experience that you don’t want to miss it? Glad you asked!

Beyond this festival’s spectacular programming and its picturesque location tucked away in the heart of the city, it’s really the people that make CFMF what it is. 

“What’s really great about Calgary Folk Music Fest is the community,” explains Kerry Clarke, CFMF’s Artistic Director. “You’ll see 80-year-olds and 2-year-olds onsite together, you’ll see families, and you’ll see hippies, businessmen and people who are all tattooed up, so the audience is truly as varied as the artists. But, what’s really special about this festival is that we are truly egalitarian, we don’t have VIP areas, everyone just sets up their tarps and blankets and they either sit on the field or they stand up and dance. We’ve always tried to make CFMF friendly, human-scaled and intimate so that we can facilitate an atmosphere of music discovery. 

“I think when you’re doing a festival and you’re striving to do it right, it really has to fit in the vibe and the nature of the city that it’s in,” adds Clarke. “The arts scene in Calgary has been flourishing for a long time, and it’s because the people of this city and the people who continue to come to CFMF year after year are open-minded, open-hearted, and always ready and willing to embrace that.”

Supress from menu

The Calgary Folk Music Festival comes to Calgary July 25-28, 2019. For more information or to purchase tickets visit the Calgary Folk Music Festival website.  

Supress from menu
Juliette Jagger