Calgary Folk Music Festival to return this summer as COVID-aware concert series, officials announce

After weeks of anticipation, Calgary Folk Music Festival officials announced Tuesday that live music will return to Prince’s Island Park this summer — but it will be a different experience because of COVID-19.

Executive director Sara Leishman and artistic director Kerry Clarke say the festival, which was cancelled in July 2020 due to the pandemic, will be re-imagined for 2021 as an outdoor concert series called CFMF Summer Serenades.

It will be designed keep attendees safe as 36 Canadian artists — including Shad, Hawksley Workman, the Cowboy Junkies, Tara Lightfoot and Dan Mangan — perform on the event’s main stage from July 22 until the 28.

The event will require everyone to follow COVID-19 safety protocols, including masks and physical distancing, Leishman told the Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday morning.

“[We want] to make sure that it’s just a really nice environment for people to come down to the park and enjoy some live music — probably for many for the first time in a long time,” Leishman said.

Months of planning

To find a comfortable way forward, Leishman said the organizers of CFMF Summer Serenades have been having conversations with stakeholders, all levels of government and volunteers for months.

Though the Alberta government is projecting that all COVID-19 health restrictions could be lifted by July, Leishman said it was a priority to ensure the event was inclusive for people with different comfort levels.

“We’re just trying to create a really respectful and safe environment for everyone,” Leishman said. “[And] the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive.”

Hawksley Workman, left, and Shad, right, are both slated to perform at CFMF Summer Serenades at Prince’s Island Park next month. (David Leyes/Vanessa Heins)

As such, the event that will be modest in scope when compared with others planned for the summer, like the Calgary Stampede — but Leishman said the hope is that it feels like a safe and well-organized reintroduction to live music.

“Our approach has always been to ensure that when we were ready to announce, to be able to give people as much information as possible,” Leishman said.

“And really to demonstrate what we plan to do, so that people can make their own decision for attending our event.”

Venue details

Ticket buyers for CFMF Summer Serenades will be assigned to a space for their tarps and blankets. The spaces will be 6 by 8 feet, or roughly 2 by 2.5 metres — big enough to host up to four adults and two kids.

The event will also be limited to 15 per cent of its usual capacity, so it will accommodate about 1,200 adults and 600 children if sold out.

When moving around the site, attendees will be asked to wear their masks — but can be completely unmasked to enjoy food and drinks in their space. Organizers have applied for a liquor licence.

And although familiar amenities such as Folk Fest’s family area, artisan market and day stages will not be back, Clarke said they are optimistic that seeing live performances again will be a welcome change for Calgarians.

“People are really excited to be playing in front of live audiences, [and] I think live audiences will be so excited to see them,” Clarke said.

“So, it’s a really one small step back in the road to recovery, and it’s our ability to do what we do best, which is present live music.”

Tickets for CFMF Summer Serenades will go on sale to the public on Friday at 10 a.m.

The full lineup, schedules and tickets can be found at calgaryfolkfest.com.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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