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Shelter Valley Folk Festival

Gary

by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

Field of Dreams…

A few years ago Aengus Finnan, singer, song writer and entrepreneur, had a dream. He wanted to host a concert and campfire with friends. That dream turned into the Shelter Valley Folk Festival. The festival takes place each year (this was the 4th annual) in a farmer’s field just east of Grafton, Ontario. It would be impossible to find if it weren’t for the signs. You turn off County Road #2 (formerly Hwy #2) onto a side road and then follow the road to the “T”, turn right and then left and you are there. After your turn, you are in a field that had been turned into a huge parking lot. “I told you it would be impossible to find!” There are lots of volunteers there to help you find a spot. We parked the car and then walked across the field towards the ticket booth. Just to the north of the parking lot and festival grounds was a giant camping area. I think someone told me that more than half the festival attendees camp for the weekend. Judi had worn sandals, so walking across the field was difficult for her. There was a small line up at the booth, but moved quickly. The cost to enter the festival was $35.00 each. It would have been less expensive had we pre-purchased our tickets. Tickets are limited to 1,500. From the ticket booth you walk through a narrow lane and then out into the large open festival grounds, to our right was an information booth. We stopped and were given a festival program. Folk music was in the air and it was time to investigate…

Food and Wellness…

As we were walking in from the parking lot I noticed some kids painting an old car! Boy, were they working on it! I had to take a look. Just north of the information was a kids’ compound. Within the compound were a number of children’s activities, not least of which was the decorating, ‘60’s style, of the car. I thought I had entered a time warp. It was great fun to watch the kids at work. From there we headed south to the artists’ and wellness villages. The hill slopes to the south, so the villages are a sort of in a valley below the music areas. We passed the artists’ village (to be seen later) in favour of the food area. This festival is unique in that the 5 food booths are run by local restaurants and one charity. Each booth offers different types of food (all healthy) at a very reasonable price and to top it off, the product used is manly from the area. I had a wonderful Montreal Smoked Beef sandwich on amazing bread. After lunch, we started to look at the tents. In the middle of the large village area were the wellness and sustainable living presentations. Each tent offered different presentations. They offered everything from “Morning Rise Yoga” to “Go Organic”. The Treatment Tent offered hands-on mini treatments to relax and rejuvenate festival attendees. It was now time to visit the Shelter Valley Folk Festival's Artists’ Village…

Art and Music…

The Artists’ Village is located on the east side of the compound. The village hosts a variety of styles and creations, including clothing, jewelry, original art and musical instruments. Judi and I walked along the row of tents looking at the products being sold and talking with many of the artists and artisans. Judi couldn’t resist purchasing a beautiful necklace from ”Glass Crush”. Finally we left the artists’ village and walked back up the hill towards the main attractions, the music. The folk music part of the festival is very unique, it is held in a large open field and there are three stages. Each stage is set apart from the other by space and location. The first stage we encountered was the Village Stage. As the name implies, it is located close to the Village compound, actually right at the Village entrance. When we arrived there were a large number of people sitting and standing enjoying the music. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized Sylvia Tyson was one of the performers. At the most northern part of the field was the Pine Stage. I climbed the hill to investigate. People were sitting on chairs under a tent or lying on the ground just outside the tented area. All were relaxing and listening to the lively music. Back towards the western part of the field was the Barn Stage. The stage is in an old converted barn and is located at the bottom of a sloping field. The setting makes for a natural outside auditorium. The space was divided into 3 sections. The first was for people who were willing (and able) to sit or lie on the ground. The middle section was for people with chairs. The final section was located at the top of the hill. The organizers had erected 2 tents that provided a shaded area for those who wanted to enjoy the music out of the sun. This is where Judi and I finally settled. During the day the music being offered was in the form of workshops. Here groups of musicians would gather on each stage to talk about and perform their different type and styles of music. It was interesting to hear how each came up with a tune or words for a song, what it meant to them and how it related to the others on the stage. Each performer had a different musical journey but all loved making music. You could tell that the audience was listening to the musicians and absorbing the words and atmosphere. The workshop portion of the Shelter Valley Folk Festival ends in late afternoon. The evening portion starts at 6:00 PM and only the Barn Stage is used. Each night there are 8 performers scheduled. Unfortunately Judi had been feeling ill all day, so we left before the evening performances. I did hear later, from a number of people who had stayed, that the concert was a great success.

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