This is a personal note and reflection on my trip to the North Country Fair for the 31st annual solstice celebration and folk festival.
Way back in 1979 I was living “back to the land” on a farm near Joussard Alberta, on Lesser Slave Lake – about 400 km north of Edmonton. The previous summer I had taken a trip to Ontario and attended Mariposa and Killilou Festivals and came home with the idea to expand our annual community solstice picnics, to a folk festival. Thus was born the North Country Fair, and I served as the coordinator for the first five years.
The Fair has moved to 5 different sites over the years, but has finally arrived “home” at a wonderful and HUGE site on the Driftpile River. Farsighted individuals now running the Fair were smart enough to invest in the purchase of 9 quarter sections (1,440 acres or 583 hectares). The site is easily large enough for the Fair and serves as a large eco-reserve of Northern Alberta pasture, riverbed and boreal forest.
Having a permanent site resolves the scourge of most outdoor festivals – the continuous creation and then the dismantling of the festival infrastructure every year. The North Country Fair, could hardly be described as capital rich, but now any improvements made in a single year can be built upon and reused every year there after.
One of the features of the North Country Fair is that everyone stays on site and camps together. This has created problems in the past when everyone is squeezed into limited facilities. But now there is spaces for everyone (and their friends) to find the kind of camping (site, view, neighborlinesses) that they desire. This year’s record attendance – my guess around 5,000 people, enjoyed the usual eclectic mix of music, dance and theater on the 4 stages. Having one’s own facility also means there are no landlords or neighbours telling the MCs when to shut down the stages – however dancing at 5:00 in the morning is way to much for an old guy like me. Speaking of ages, one of the most remarkable things about the Fair is that the median age probably has not varied over the 31 years. Most of the organizations and events, I attend these days seem to be dominated by gray – and I do my little bit as well. But the North Country Fair median age is probably around 26! Nonetheless it is a family event, with many small ones and a few Grandmas mixed in.
The Fair is also reaching critical mass with time and energy to do the ‘little things” like the art work that adorns all of the stages. I was also really pleased to see energy, public health issues, Katimavic, meditation, nature walks and other informal learning and community action opportunities sprouting at the Fair.
Of course it always rains at least a bit at the Fair, but I was ready with my gum boats (see above) and mostly the sun shone down for that very long day (over 20 hours of daylight).
All and All Susan and I had a great time at the Fair, and it was nice my son Leif came along to volunteer and play his bagpipes -adding a second generation of energy to this SunSational event!