Then there are the 1,300 or so volunteers who provide free labour in exchange for an opportunity to work behind the scenes, get a free T-shirt and nosh on some really delicious food.
Starting Thursday and running until Sunday, the performing artists and volunteers at Calgary Folk Music Festival are treated to the best food the city has to offer -- lemongrass chicken, vegetarian chili, Spolumbos' sausages -- all donated by sponsors and organized by a volunteer crew. The salad bar, for example, is the stuff of legend with its healthy offerings.
Not volunteering or performing? The paying music-goers (that's you and me) can sip Big Rock Beer and Tinhorn Creek wines in the tree-shaded beer garden and dine on a wide selection of food from vendors.
Winnipeg's popular India Palace Restaurant is back (a.k.a. Curry in a Hurry), joined by first-timer The Nomad's Kitchen from Smithers, B.C, and its vegan organic burritos, bannock and pad Thai.
At the other end of the spectrum, you'll find Montreal smoked meat and that old standby, Lil' Orbits and its mini doughnuts.
The folk fest is putting Calgary on the map for its music and community involvement. An Edmonton newspaper lamented Calgary's superior lineup of musicians. Now they can envy the food, too.
Despite the star power in attendance, the artists tend not to be too high maintenance when it comes food and drink.
"Because it's a community festival, artists tend to be modest in their requests," says the festival's artistic director, Kerry Clarke. "We try to meet their needs and volunteers go out and buy the items."
In other years, she sought out Jagermeister, a German herbal liquor, for one musician, and a seaweed health drink for American artist Victoria Williams, who has multiple sclerosis.
"We had one group, they wanted only Indian food every meal, so we arranged with Rajdoot (restaurant) to provide this."
Past requests have been mainly for wine and local beer, and Red Bull, a super caffeinated drink. In one misprint, a band requested "beagles and cream cheese."
This year, Clarke will pay special attention to the requests of Saturday headliner Kris Kristofferson.
"We'll go out of our way for Mr. Kristofferson," she says. "He wants a bottle of Merlot, Gatorade, a Chardonnay, salty crackers and/or chips, and a plate of veggies."
A lot of the artists are health-conscious or vegetarian, she adds. About five years ago, this realization drove a reinvention of the folk fest food, which was mainly burgers and dogs, into a new menu and philosophy: Serve the best.
The food evolution came with volunteer Gerald Lajeunesse, a Calgary schoolteacher who describes himself as "an organic guy." (He's not a vegetarian, but his favourite place to dine out is The Coup, a vegetarian restaurant.)
When Lajeunesse volunteered to take over the food service six years ago, there were complaints from the artists and volunteers about the lack of options for vegans and vegetarians.
He simplified the menu, paring down the meals to one hot food entree with a vegetarian option, plus salads. Lajeunesse recruited volunteers Diane Slater and Maggie Jones to design four salads that everyone could eat. They came up with a vinaigrette for the vegan crowd, and nuts were put on the side to address allergies.
"We really feel because of the salad bar, most of the artists are happy with the food," says Lajeunesse.
This year's offerings include an Asian salad, a Moroccan carrot salad and an organic green salad, among others.
Fred S. Bloom, a social worker turned cook at a local retirement home, is responsible for the 16-person "hot crew" that serves the hot meals to musicians and volunteers.
"We hear volunteers return for the food," says Bloom proudly.
One popular volunteer request is for the caramelized onions in Pepperheads' Wild Garlic Hot Sauce, a condiment made in Turner Valley.
"People say whatever you do, don't get rid of the onions and hot sauce."
Bloom is looking forward to the music and the good food on Prince's Island: "Food is about building community. It's a celebration."
What's to Eat?
There are enough food vendors, new and old, at the Calgary Folk Music Festival to make your mouth water. Here's the lineup:
- Bean Brokers: Hot and cold specialty coffees.
- Corn Roaster Canada: Corn on the cob, dripping with butter and sprinkled with your favourite flavours.
- Crepes de Licious: New this year. Crepes with lots of different toppings, and sno cones to beat the heat.
- Daily Bagel: New. Montreal smoked meat -- and pickles on sticks.
- Dickie Dee Ice Cream: Ice cream treats.
- Fiasco Gelato: New. Italian ices.
- Incredi-Bowl-o-Fruit: Fresh fruit with your choice of toppings, and an edible bowl. New to this vendor: salads in an edible savoury bowl.
- India Palace Restaurant: Famous for its "curry in a hurry," fragrant rice and samosas.
- Joy's Caribbean Foods: Rotis, ginger beer, curries and jerk chicken.
- Le Chien Chaud: Gourmet hotdogs, toppings and veggie dogs, too.
- Lil' Orbits: Mini doughnuts.
- Mobile BBQ: Beef on a bun, breakfast sandwiches and more.
- The Nomad's Kitchen: New. Pad Thai, organic burritos, daal and bannock.
- The Nut Man: Snackables such as candy, nuts and dried fruit.
- Rollin' Smoke: Barbecue ribs, chicken, pulled pork and brisket.
- Ship and Anchor Pub: Burgers, fish and chips.
- Sugar Creek Kettle Corn Company: Salty, sweet kettle corn and lemonade.
- Sunterra Market: "Big pan" meals and salads.
- Sushi Deluxe: New. Sushi and bubble tea.
- - -
Mediterranean Inspired Chili
This vegetarian recipe, enough to feed a crowd, comes from Fred S. Bloom, leader of the volunteer "hot crew" that feeds musicians and volunteers at the Calgary Folk Music Festival.
1/3 cup (75 mL) canola oil
2 cups (500 mL) diced onion
2 cups (500 mL) grated carrots
2 cups (500 mL) diced celery
2 cups (500 mL) diced zucchini
2 cups (500 mL) diced, roasted red peppers
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 28-oz (796-mL) can crushed tomatoes
1 19-oz (540-mL) can red kidney beans
1 19-oz (540-mL) can black beans
2 tbsp (25 mL) chili powder (adjust for the heat you like)
1 tbsp (15 mL) ground cumin
1 tbsp (15 mL) ground coriander
2 tsp (10 mL) cinnamon
kosher salt to taste
coarsely ground black pepper to taste
3 lb (1.5 kg) Yves Veggie Ground Round (see Cook's Note)
In an 8-quart (7.6-L) stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat, and cook the onions, carrots and celery until soft. Add the zucchini, roasted red peppers and garlic and continue cooking on medium heat until all ingredients are soft.
Next, add the crushed tomatoes, red kidney and black beans (with their liquid). Stir in the chili, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 1 hour.
Add the Yves Veggie Ground Round and continue to simmer the chili for another 15 to 20 minutes to allow the flavours to blend. Adjust seasonings.
As with all chili, this is even better eaten the next day.
Garnish with your favourite toppings, such as grated cheese, sour cream or taco chips.
Makes about 12 one-cup (250-mL) servings.
Cook's Note: Yves Veggie Ground Round is a precooked soy protein product available in grocery stores.