Family-theme festival makes love blossom. Eric Volmers, Calgary Herald, July 23, 2009

Posted by on 24 July 2009

30-year-old folk fest called 'a huge base for volunteers'


The romance blossomed on Prince's Island, backed by a soundtrack of world beats, strummed guitars and the earnest vocals of countless Canuck folkies.

In February, Matt Lund and Carlene Scott will be married on a sandy beach in Mexico after a three-year courtship. For the close-knit community of volunteers of the Calgary Folk Music Festival, the union must seem like the joining of royal families. Matt's parents, Ruth and John Lund, have been volunteering since the festival's humble beginnings in 1979. Randall and Andrea Scott have also been mainstays on Prince's Island for more than a decade.

Now 25, Matt and Carlene met as 15-year-old volunteers. Three years ago--bolstered by the festival's famously raucous volunteer parties and a mutual love of music--the friendship became more special. And while the couple kept the engagement "hush-hush" at first, word has quickly spread as the festival gets set to launch its 30th anniversary celebrations today.

"Nobody really knew for the first couple meetings that I went to (this year)," says Lund. "Then it got out because Carlene's mom is a co-ordinator. She went in and was talking about it. It got back to (festival general manager les siemieniuk). I'm sure everybody knows by now."

The couple's impending nuptials seem an upbeat chapter in the ongoing story of the folk fest volunteers, an army of 1,500. Many have grown close over the years, often sharing in both the happy and sad milestones of each other's lives.

Like their parents before them, both Lund and Scott have become dedicated front-line volunteers at the folk festival. Lund is a security co-ordinator and Scott is on his crew. But both were separately weaned on the eclectic sounds of the folk festival long before they met. Lund reckons he went to his first folk fest as a baby. Scott remembers attending as a 10-year-old. The following year, she was volunteering at the lost-and-found and lost children's tent.

By 15, she met her future husband at a volunteer party. They hooked up again at 21, bonding over a love of Alexisonfire and its folky offshoot City and Colour. By the time the latter played the 2007 festival, the couple had already been dating a couple of years and volunteering for almost a decade.

"A lot of my parents' friends who I grew up with were there," Carlene says. "It's a huge base of volunteers that we know. It's sort of like an extended family to go and see all those people."

The "extended family" theme is a common sentiment among longtime volunteers.

John Lund, who has volunteered at the festival since it began, said he was pleasantly surprised that a romance blossomed between his son and the offspring of fellow folkies.

"I think it snuck up on people," he says. "I don't think anyone really saw it coming. For the kids, they were just other kids to be with. It's fun when the kids grow up in an environment and then choose to have it as part of their lives as an adult."

Don Hansen has certainly instilled a love of the event in his children, providing the festival with a willing brood of four kids to help out at various times in the festival's history. Joel, 18, and Theo, 16, will be on the island as volunteers this year, as they have been in year's past. Their mom, Mardelle, has long served as an artist liaison at the festival. But there connection runs deeper than just volunteering.

In 2007, the "extended-family" reach of the folk-fest crowd helped them get through a tragic period in their lives. Don's oldest son, Stephen-- who had also volunteered at the festival--died of an accidental overdose at the age of 26.

"When he died and the memorial service was being arranged, it wasn't done through a church or anything," says Hansen. "It was like the church of folk music. The people who all helped were people in the folk scene. Kerry Clarke, the artistic director, helped set up chairs. People brought food, they sang."

"When there's a need, they came in droves," says Mardelle. "They were there. If something goes wrong it would have been the same with us, if someone needed help. We all do our own thing in the community, but we all come together."

One of the Hansens' favourite pictures kept on the family piano is of Joel and Theo as toddlers, wearing matching knit hats in a stroller and grinning at the camera. Taken either at the Calgary or Canmore folk festivals-- where the family also volunteers --the sugary shot is probably not one the now-teenage subjects cherish as much as their parents, but it does show how they've been able to soak up various strains of music for most of their lives. Joel, who volunteers as a tech on various side stages at the festival, is now a bearded, bass-playing Slayer fan. But he has nevertheless taken to broadening his friends' musical horizons by introducing them to the music of festival favourites such as Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, the Oysterband and Guy Davis.

"I definitely remember hanging out with the artists, just chilling out backstage with mom," he says. "Lennie Gallant, Guy Davis--I've been hanging with the Green Fools since then. They taught me how to walk on stilts."

"Performers would return year after year," adds Don. "And they see the kids grow up."

Like the Lunds and Scotts, the Hansens have made volunteering a part of their family fabric.

It's a tradition that Matt Lund and Carlene Scott hope to continue with their own children.

"I have no intention of stopping any time soon," says Carlene. "It's a great place for kids. It's a great way to spend a weekend and really family-oriented--everyone together on the main field in the sun."