North

Yellowknife's Folk on the Rocks festival cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

Officials say they were holding out hope that the festival's July dates meant the pandemic wouldn't affect it, and that it could even be used as a way to "celebrate the end of the quarantine."

Officials say 40th anniversary festival postponed until 2021

The Folks on the Rocks grounds in 2019 on the shores of Long Lake. Officials with the music festival say the 40th anniversary will now be postponed until 2021. (Madeline Lapointe/CBC)

This year's Folk on the Rocks music festival, which was set to celebrate its 40th year on the shores of Long Lake in Yellowknife, has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a news release Wednesday, officials said they were holding out hope that the festival's July dates — still three months away — meant the pandemic wouldn't affect it, and that it could even be used as a way to "celebrate the end of the quarantine."

But officials say as the public health emergency continues, board members came to a unanimous decision that the 2020 Folk on the Rocks music festival couldn't happen.

"There were several tears shed throughout the decision-making process," said Carly McFadden, executive and artistic director of the festival, in the news release. 

"This was probably the most difficult decision we have ever had to make in my time with Folk On The Rocks."

The Northwest Territories' chief public health officer, Dr. Kami Kandola, recommended in late March that all gatherings and events should be cancelled, no matter the size.

This was probably the most difficult decision we have ever had to make.- Carly McFadden, Folk on the Rocks artistic director

McFadden told CBC the decision to cancel this year's festival was based in part on the fact that Folk on the Rocks draws so many people into the territory from the South.

"The N.W.T. is doing a fantastic job and I think cases really haven't gone up there, but the rest of Canada still hasn't quite gotten that under control," said McFadden.

"Unfortunately, so many people, and supplies, and artists, and people visiting, come up from southern Canada — across Canada — to participate in the festival, and it didn't feel like it was a safe move."

Tickets to be refunded

According to the news release, everyone who already purchased a ticket for the festival will receive a full refund.

Ticket holders are asked to fill out this form by the end of the month. It also gives people the option to donate the purchase price of their ticket to the festival, which is a non-profit. 

A file photo of a dad and his son on the sand at the main stage at Folk on the Rocks in 2017. Everyone who already purchased a ticket for the 2020 festival will receive a full refund. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

Patrons should expect a refund no later than May 14, according to the news release. 

Without the revenue generated during this year's festival weekend, McFadden said it's going to be "challenging" for her organization, but she said they'll endure.

"It will be a tight year for Folks on the Rocks for sure," she said.

40th anniversary postponed until 2021

This year's Folk on the Rocks festival was going to be its 40th anniversary.

Officials had already announced the full lineup, which included indie-pop stars Tegan and Sara, East Coast singer-songwriter Joel Plasket, as well as northern favourites like The Jerry Cans, Digawolf, Piqsiq, Jay Gilday, Kilo November and Miranda Currie. 

Officials say the festival plans to celebrate its 40th year in 2021, with July 16 to 18 already set as the dates. 

"Right now, we feel like things look good for that to be able to happen," said McFadden. "We are in talks with all of the artists that we have on the lineup and everyone that's able to do so is invited back for 2021."

With files from Avery Zingel

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