Calgary's Folk Fest kicks off with distanced Summer Serenades

The Calgary Folk Fest is back and ready for thousands to enjoy live music at Prince's Island Park.

The 42nd edition of the festival will be a different experience due to COVID-19

Shad headlined the Calgary Folk Festival's opening night of its Summer Serenades series. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

Just as Calgarians put away their cowboy boots, another music festival is taking over the city.

The Calgary Folk Festival's concert series "Summer Serenades" started Thursday and goes until the following Wednesday on Prince's Island Park.

Normally, there would be a lineup of hundreds of people waiting to get the best spot for their tarps, but things are a bit different this year.

What used to be a mix-n-mingling event will have some extra precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, artistic director Kerry Clarke says it is heartwarming to have a festival at all. 

Many of the artists were happy to be back, saying they had either a small amount or no gigs for more than a year. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

"I think we're one of the first festivals in the country to be doing something live and we called it Summer Serenades just to alter people's perceptions of what they might expect," she said. 

Ticket buyers for the concert are assigned to a space for their tarps and blankets that are six by eight feet (roughly two by 2.5 metres) — big enough to host up to four adults and two kids.

Calgary's Folk Festival always attracts an audience of all ages. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

"We've really utilized our culture, which already has people sort of sitting in a certain area," said Clarke. "So people are sitting with their parties."

When moving around the site, attendees are encouraged to wear their masks — but can be completely unmasked to enjoy food and drinks in their space. 

The setup was assigned seating for the "tarp field" at folk fest this year. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

There was five food venues to choose from this year, which is quite scaled down from years past, as well as the option to buy a cold one from the beer gardens to bring back to your tarp.

The festival is put together by hundreds of volunteers, and this year is no different.

There was a side stage monitor setup away from the main stage as well. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

Despite only having 600 helping hands rather than the usual 2,000, volunteer Diana Borak says the smaller setup is manageable.

"I feel like we're well-staffed for the tasks that we do have to do," she said. 

Many volunteers make Calgary's folk fest happen each year. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

She adds that organizers have worked hard to make the event feel safe both as an attendee and volunteer

"There's a lot of precaution and I think the mood overall is a lot of excitement," she said.

Calgary's very own Dragon Fli Empire played two sets during opening night. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

"My favourite thing about the folk festival is the community that comes together so to be able to get back to that even in a slightly different way is just amazing."

The field of locked bikes on Prince's Island was definitely still a thing this year. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)
Skratch Bastid pumped up the crowd with some new and old school beats. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)
Dancing was also definitely a thing again this year. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)
Group selfies were also popular. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)
The wildfire smoke that has been lingering above Calgary recently was still present, but much better for the most part. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)
Yoga anyone? The crowd seemed to have a wonderful time getting back into the swing of a typical Calgary summer stopover for many. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)


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