Dallas Green of City and Colour is one of the emerging artists to appear in Edmonton. He is shown accept the Juno Award for the alternative album of the year this March. ((Geoff Howe/Canadian Press))

The Edmonton Folk Festival kicks off Thursday with plans for a big celebration of folk music that leaves a small ecological footprint.

The four-day festival, featuring performers such as Blue Rodeo and Buffy Sainte-Marie, will have electrical power from solar panels.

And the more than 50,000 servings of beer that fans will drink will be in biodegradable cups.

"Cups that are made of cornstarch … So what happens is this stuff can be composted, and made into organic soil," organizer Eugene Lee told CBC News.

Lee says the folk festival has been a leader in implementing green initiatives.

"A lot of it stems from the culture of the festival," he said. "We know that our ecological footprint is quite tremendous on the site and we are trying to reduce that."

Until this year, the only supplier of biodegradable cupswas in the U.S. and the cost of shipping them outweighed any benefit from recycling them.

Now there is a supplier in Edmonton, so the cups are being tested this year with a view to using more biodegradables in future.

The festival also serves food on real dishes, with a $2 deposit to encourage diners to return the dishes.

The solar panels have been erected outside the retail tents to power cash registers and other electrical appliances.

The Edmonton Folk Festival, in its 28th year, attracts about 10,000 people a day.

The festival opens Thursday withU.S. folk singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith, veteran bluegrass act Ralph Stanley & His Clinch Mountain Boys,Ontario singer Dallas Greenand African Guitar Summit, a collaboration of great Canadian guitarists.

Blue Rodeo is scheduled for a Friday concert and Buffy Sainte-Marie for Sunday.

Legendary folk singer-songwriter Tom Paxton will also appear, after singer and storyteller Utah Philips cancelled his appearance because of an upcoming heart operation.

At least half of the 60 acts are young, emerging performers, including Justin Nozuka, Jenn Grant, Justin Rutledge, Kim Beggs and T. Nile, who are all making their festival debuts.

Edmonton is not the only Prairie city celebrating folk music this weekend.

The Regina Folk Festival begins Friday, with an opening concert featuring Sarah Slean, Buck 65 and Los de Abajo.

Bruce Cockburn is appearing Saturday night in Regina and Blue Rodeo on Sunday.