Folk fest ready to fly

Peggy Revell

Grab your guitar, lawn chair, and sunscreen as the Fort Frances Folk Festival is set to take off for its second year this Sunday at the Little Beaver Cultural Centre.
“I’m sure that the folk festival is going to be pretty incredible once it happens,” said Jen Krag, who took over the reins for organizing the event in its sophomore year.
“It’s come up really fast—I still remember our first meeting in November and it didn’t really feel like it was that long ago,” she admitted.
“It’s been a lot of work [but] I’ve had some really dedicated committee members that have really been pulling more than their weight, and I’m really, really grateful for everybody’s help that’s been involved,” Krag stressed.
Kicking off at 1 p.m., the headliner for this year’s festival is Sean Ashby, former guitarist for Sarah McLachlan.
“He’s a really cool guy,” Krag said of Ashby, who visited Fort Frances earlier this year to play at a folk festival fundraiser.
“Ashby is having a guitar workshop—at 4 p.m.—and we actually still need a few more people to sign up for that,” she noted.
Those interested in this workshop can register by phoning Krag at 274-9320 or e-mailing her at
“The Mud Lake City Boys will be performing [at the festival], which I know will be a big local draw for the 50-year-old crowd,” Krag remarked, referring to one of the other big acts for the day.
“The guys who are in that band really draw a lot of people in.”
Krag said Angus Jourdain also is going to be playing on Sunday.
“A lot of people are excited about that,” she noted. “And we’re also having the ‘Auditor General’ return from last year, which was a really big draw for the younger crowd.”
While there will be a main outdoor stage for the numerous performers, a “Stage B” will be set up inside the Little Beaver lodge, where bands and individuals can play in an open mic format.
Alex Marusyk, who was one of the founders of last year’s inaugural folk festival, also will be returning for a “cameo appearance” to emcee the festival—as well as perform, Krag said.
“We’re all very excited about playing the Fort Frances Folk
Festival,” enthused Sheldon Birnie of the Winnipeg-based band, “Cheering for the Bad Guy.”
“We love playing small festivals and small towns because we’re all from small towns and know how exciting it is to have something like this go down,” he remarked.
“We’re looking forward to seeing the other acts, spending some time on the water, and playing a town we’ve never played before,” Birnie added.
“Camping, fishing, and playing our tunes to some folks who may never have heard them before are all highlights we’re looking forward to!”
“I’m looking forward to getting out to Fort Frances for the first time,” echoed Ian McAmmond with the Winnipeg band “Johnny Riverboat,” who be making their first appearance at the festival.
With one of their members having moved to Fort Frances, McAmmond said he’s “heard a lot of good things” about the town and festival over the past several months.
“We’re also looking forward to being able to play in an outdoor music festival and see a little bit more of the country, discovering new music and meeting new people, [which] are things that go hand in hand with these festivals.
“[And] touring in different cities and different towns,” he added.
“One of the fun things about playing at smaller community festivals is people there might not necessarily be familiar with your music,” McAmmond noted.
“But I often find that there’s a strong sense of community that you might not see at the bigger festivals.”
And while music is the big draw for the day, organizers have made sure to have plenty of other things to keep those attending the festival busy.
“As far as daytime events, we’re going to be having a few different contests to win folk festival T-shirts,” noted Krag.
“We’re doing race up to the top of the [ski] hill like we did last year, as well as a couple of other fun games that people will be able to participate in.”
For part of the day, there also will be a tent for kids’ activities, including crafts, face-painting, and tie-dying shirts.
Local artist Lindsay Hamilton will have a portrait stand set up while Marke Henteleff of Black Duck Pottery will be holding a little ceramic workshop, said Krag.
Local vendors also will be on hand and folk festival merchandise—such as T-shirts and buttons—will be for sale, not to mention merchandise for other performers.
The venue also has a licensed patio, and there will be a 50/50 draw.
“We’re actually going to have two golf carts this year to help transport people around,” noted Krag, referring to one improvement they’ve made from last year’s festival.
“There were a few people last year who were having difficulties getting up the little slope to the base of the hill and we’re going to have proper transportation for everybody this year,” she pledged.
“And also, if you’re parked way down at the end of the road, you’ll be able to get a ride up to the front.”
As for the proper gear for the day, people should bring with them chairs or blankets if they plan to sit on the grass, along with umbrellas if “God forbid it’s raining,” added Krag, as well as sunscreen and bug spray for those planning to attend later in the day.
Tickets for the folk festival, available in advance at Betty’s and at the door, cost $25 for adults (age 19+), $20 for youth (age 13-18), and $15 for children (age six-12), which those five and under being admitted free.
Last year’s inaugural Fort Frances Folk Festival drew about 300-350 people for the day.