Folk Fest brings millions into Calgary's economy, concludes report

Report shows Calgary Folk Music Festival generated millions in economic activity through tourism and hospitality industries in Calgary last year.

Not sold out this year, but it's a 'last-minute town,' say organizers

Music lovers take in the first day of the 2017 Calgary Folk Music Festival. (CBC)

Folk Fest is a weekend of music and magic down in Prince's Island Park and, according to Tourism Calgary, it's also a boost for the city's economy.

As the first acts prepare to hit the stage for the 2017 edition of the Calgary Folk Music Festival, a recent study by the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance shows how the festival is helping boost the economy with millions of dollars.

The economic impact assessment says the festival generated $6.6 million worth of economic activity in Alberta during the 2016 season, $6 million of which was generated in Calgary.

Kerry Clarke, artistic director with the Calgary Folk Music Festival, said organizers are proud the festival has been "a positive contribution to Alberta's economy as well as to its culture."

"For 38 years, Calgarians and visitors have celebrated one of North America's most respected, high-profile international festivals on a magical four-day long weekend that brings icons and upstart artists from our backyard and around the globe," Clarke said.

Cultural cornerstone

Events like Folk Fest help generate "economic activity" through hospitality industries, said Cassandra McAuley, a spokesperson with Tourism Calgary.

"Whether it's from visitors who are coming into the city and spending money on hotel rooms and restaurants…to the acts that are coming in," said McAuley.

The Calgary Folk Fest is a great place to relax in the sun with some great tunes, and Tourism Calgary say the event helps stimulate the economy. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

"Folk Fest is such an important part of Calgary's culture, as are many of our major cornerstone events, so they give Calgarians a reason to explore their city…and it gives visitors a reason to come to the city as well."

Tickets still on sale

In past years Folk Fest has been a sold out affair.

Despite not selling out in 2016 and festival passes still available for the 2017 edition, Shayne McBride, chair of the board of directors for the Calgary Folk Fest, said people are still coming out to the festival during the economic downturn.

"Calgary's becoming more and more of a last-minute town, it feels like. But really strong sales this week — over 1,500 in ticket sales just yesterday," McBride said. 

"So, the weather looks great and people are sort of solidifying their plans. So, by all accounts we should be getting close to sell outs on the weekend."

In 2016, the festival had 53,000 attendees over four days, including 2,477 out of town visitors who travelled over 100 kilometres to attend Calgary Folk Music Festival.

  • With files from Allison Dempster