Calgary Folk Fest sees smaller crowds but amazing weather on opening day

Posted by David Bell on 21 July 2016

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is excited about the opening day of the Calgary Folk

The weather could not have been more co-operative on the first day on the Calgary Folk Music Festival but there were fewer fans rushing to get their tarp down in their favourite viewing spot Thursday afternoon.

 "I think it is a little bit smaller as a group right now and a lot of things are affected. We can't ignore that," Mary Valentich said.

 She's a good judge of the size of the crowd. She's being coming to the festival for around 20 years. She's also a fan of the bigger beer gardens this year.

mary valentich

Mary Valentich has been coming to the Calgary Folk Fest for about 20 years. (Mike Symington/CBC)

"I think that is terrific. I am looking forward to the time when we will be able to have some beer throughout the whole park.

For some, it's a whole new experience.

Leon Kniebel has lived in Calgary for ten years but this is his first Folk Fest.

leon kniebel

Leon Kniebel is a Folk Fest newbie. (Mike Symington/CBC)

"My girlfriend invited me to come along and gave me a ticket for my birthday. She told me about it last year and it sounds like a really cool event so I really wanted to go," Kniebel said.

Kniebel's girlfriend, Claire Kimbley, says it's a place you can fall in love with the music.

Kimbley has been a volunteer for about five years.

claire kimbley

Claire Kimbley says it's a place you can fall in love. (Mike Symington/CBC

"It is just a really laid back festival and there are always some interesting bands. There are a lot of unique bands that you have never heard of and you show up and you can fall in love with them," she said.

Kandace Bartko says this is her first festival in a few years.

"First year in a long time, but as a kid we were here every year. I think this is Folk Fest number ten or eleven," Bartko explained.

kandace bartko

Kandace Bartko says 2016 is roughly her 10th or 11th festival. (Mike Symington/CBC)

She said there was more room for her tarp. 

"Little bit thinner, we are just coming off of Stampede too. You can definitely feel the economic downturn," she said.

Manfred Baum has come for the past two decades on and off.

manfred baum

Manfred Baum says sometimes the acts you don't know can be the most rewarding. (Mike Symington/CBC)

"It isn't the ones you know, it is the ones you don't know. I have discovered things at Folk Fest I have never heard before and that is the fun," Baum said.

He's torn on how the bigger beer gardens will play out.

"The concern of course is, the larger the beer garden the more problems you get, but then people do like having the occasional beer and that is fine," he said.

Peter Worthington found love at a previous Folk Fest.

peter worthington

Peter Worthington found love at a previous festival. (Mike Symington/CBC)

"It was a family tradition at first, I met my girlfriend of nine years here in 2007 and I just keep on coming, it is always a good time," Worthington said.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who identifies as a "long time tarpie," says he won a recent argument over what time to show up to get the best real estate.

"I have a big fight with one of my friends every year about how early we need to show up. I always say later, she always says earlier and apparently this year I was right," Nenshi explained.

He says the type of people that come to the Calgary Folk Fest can usually handle their alcohol. 

"It was always hugely congested in there and so I am happy to expand it a little bit, I am happy to let more people enjoy in different ways and I know the Folk Fest people are very responsible so I am not worried about it at all," he said.

The festival's artistic director says ticket sales are down, but the weather could give them the bump they are looking for.

kerry clark

Festival artistic director Kerry Clark says they are counting on the weather to give ticket sales a bump. (Mike Symington/CBC)

'I think that [the downturn] certainly has affected us, we are still doing well but we notice that 10 or 20 per cent difference for sure and people are buying later for sure," Kerry Clark said.