CANSO: “It creates a village within a village, really. We provide a lot of things that a city festival might not – the ones that happen on an asphalt lot somewhere. It’s a community and kind of a hard phenomenon to describe, but maybe that’s the magic of it.”
This from the new Artistic Director of the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, Chris Greencorn.
He says this year’s headliners – Suzanne Vega, Donovan Woods and Jeremy Dutcher – are the sort of entertainers the entire audience can dig into.
“We are super excited about Suzanne Vega and as far as I know it’s her first time in this part of the world. There are two others we are promoting as headliners: Jeremy Dutcher – he has done a lot of innovative work with folk music. We also have Donovan Woods and his band who have received a great deal of airplay on CBC.”
In this, its 23rd year, the Canso festival will host a solid core of East Coast talent including Dave Gunning, Bruce Guthro, Rose Cousins, JP Cormier, Còig, and Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys. Also featured are newer Atlantic Canadian artists like Gabrielle Papillon, Kellie Loder, Rachel Beck, Reeny Smith, Garrett Mason, T. Thomason, Hello Delaware, and The Bombadils.
The roster also spotlights Manitoba artists The Small Glories, Joey Landreth, and Madeleine Roger along with Montrealer, Kaia Kater, and Boston-based Lula Wiles. In addition, PEI-based classical ensemble, Atlantic String Machine, will also be featured in the weekend’s programming.
Toronto-based artists The Weather Station, Justin Nozuka, and Lydia Persaud will each bring their unique spin on folk music. As well, two European imports – Talisk, and fiddle supergroup, Scandinavian String Alliance – will be present, along with Garnet Rogers and Malcolm Holcombe.
Thousands of fans will stay at designated on-site locations and on nearby campgrounds. Many audience members travel locally from Atlantic Canada, Ontario and Quebec. Although, Stan Fest is also known to attract global enthusiasm with fans from as far away as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
The festival has run since 1997, a celebration of musical talent honouring one of Canada’s most prolific songwriters, Stan Rogers.
“We are featuring a lot of new, young and diverse variations on what folk music is, or could be – this could be considered the theme of this year. That’s the luxury we have with Stan Fest –it’s not like a city festival where you don’t know if you’re having an impact on the audience. It’s been a launchpad for many artists.”
There are approximately 35 preforming groups and Greencorn says deciding who makes the cut can be an undertaking.
“That’s the main part of my position as artistic director – I look after the booking of the artists and their programing. We start in September and by early spring, most of the groups are confirmed. We see hundreds of artists over the year and have to winnow it down to about 30. It’s a difficult task, really.”
Stan Fest is considered a venue for the entire family and Greencorn is no exception. He has had a lifetime of event experience.
“New to the position; but not new to the organization. I’ve been on staff for the past six years and grew up with the festival. Troy Greencorn – the founding artistic director until this past year – is my dad.”
As the largest cultural event of the Northeast Nova area, there is tremendous economic benefit for Canso and surrounding communities.
“The biggest part of our audience are the return attendees; 65-70 per cent of our audience are that core – they come with their tents and their trailers; they’re dedicated. We have somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2,500 people on site, over four days. It’s a pretty bustling spot when you consider Canso has about 700 people year-around.”
The festival runs Thursday, July 25 to Sunday, July 28. There are four daytime stages operating concurrently from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The evening stage begins at 7 p.m. and stretches into the wee hours.