Sellouts are music to organizer's ears
Calgary Herald - Heath McCoy

Posted by on 10 May 2004

And how will the people of Calgary remember the 24th annual Calgary Folk Music Festival, which wrapped up Sunday evening?

"There's a group of people who, in the past, always bought their tickets on the day of the show," said Les Siemieniuk, general manager of the festival. "Well, this year they woke up, looked out their window and said, 'It's a nice day. I think I'm gonna go to the folk festival.' And you know what? This is the year they couldn't." Siemieniuk punctuates his story with a hearty laugh. His jovial mood is understandable. With the weekend shows sold-out, and excellent attendance figures on Thursday and Friday, 2003 has been the Calgary Folk Music Festival's most successful year, in terms of attendance.

Over the festival's four days, about 37,900 people roamed Prince's Island Park (a sellout is 40,000), taking in music from around the world. The artists included such stars as Elvis Costello, Ani DiFranco, Ricky Skaggs, Daniel Lanois and Blue Rodeo. The Calgary festival is hotter than ever and Siemieniuk knows it. "People are going to have to step up early next year (if they want tickets)," he said Sunday afternoon on the festival grounds. "They've always been able to wait to the last minute before, but it's not that way anymore." Organizers said it was too early to tell how successful the festival had been in terms of overall profits, however. Factors such as merchandise and beer garden sales had yet to be taken into account. And of course, there's always those little glitches. On Sunday, festival organizers were doing some last minute scrambling to feed their volunteers after a shipment of food fell out of the back of a truck.

"That's about $500 we hadn't planned on spending," Siemieniuk said. "I won't know for sure what we've got in the bank for next year until I've got the auditor's report." But organizers are confident that this year will set the festival up nicely for the festival's 25th anniversary. Siemieniuk admits he wants to make next year extra special. But don't ask him how the festival plans on topping itself. Not yet anyway. "This bodes well for No. 25 for sure," he said with an exhausted laugh. "But to tell the truth, at this point I'm still thinking of the 24th. At this point, I'm just trying to get through the day."