The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival is back after a disrupted few years caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Organizers made a kick-off announcement Tuesday morning in St. John’s with live traditional music to set the mood for the 46th annual concert series.
“Like many things that have been canceled due to COVID, you don’t realize how emotional it is to see them return,” Sean Panting, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society, told CBC News. .
The festival was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but moved online with a series of free videos featuring music, stories and dance. In 2021, the festival went on hiatus again, but moved forward with a hybrid setup with small performances in small venues across St. John’s and an online series in the fall.
This year it returns to Bannerman Park in downtown St. John’s July 8-10 and is expected to attract thousands of fans.
“Having a home in Bannerman Park and being able to go back there is huge for people,” Panting said.
Harbor Grace multi-instrumentalist, producer and sound engineer Billy Sutton helped kick off the announcement on Tuesday with his violin, alongside other musicians.
Sutton said the musicians missed having the festival in its regular operation at the park.
“It’s kind of a big ‘gathering’ event for the summer. It’s like a gathering for everyone who doesn’t see each other throughout the year,” Sutton told CBC News.
“It’s a good start to get back to concerts, to get back to some kind of normalcy.”
“It’s a bit prestigious”
Sutton said the folk festival was huge for the province and a big part of its culture. His first time on the festival stage dates back to 1995.
He said it’s a great way to showcase different types of music and it’s important for new artists to be on the lineup.
“It’s kind of glamorous. I remember the first time I did it. It’s huge,” he said.
Up-and-coming artists agree that the festival is a goal to be achieved.
Luke Mercer, 13, plays accordion with Salt Beef Junkies. While this year’s series won’t be her first time on a folk festival stage, it will be her first time on the main stage.
Mercer has been playing music for eight years, starting when he was just five, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“It started with small gigs and it started growing,” he said.
But this year’s festival is a bit more special. Mercer said it was his band’s biggest gig to date.
“I think it’s a good thing. It’s always been my dream to play on the main stage at the Folk Festival,” he said.
“At 13, I think it’s pretty good.”
Other artists included in this year’s bill are The Kubasonics, The Once and Rose Cousins among many others.
Tickets will go on sale Friday.
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