Gray skies and scattered showers did not dampen the enthusiasm of organizers or attendees at this year’s Vancouver Folk Music Festival, after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
Festival goers slowly filled the Jericho beach site on Saturday afternoon, with blankets, tarps and canopies for the sun (or rain) covering the grass in front of the various stages. Hula hoops, sunflower umbrellas, and even an occasional pair of tie-dyed pants or shirts were seen scattered throughout the crowd.
“It’s been very exciting to be back,” said Debbie Salmonsen, executive and artistic director of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. “The artists were very happy to be back and I was very happy that almost every artist I asked said yes, as long as they had availability.
“Watching from the audience last night, seeing the main stage was so moving and satisfying.”
Salmonsen said ticket sales exceeded expectations, though he acknowledged the festival was conservative in its showings. “We have exceeded our box office goals,” he said.
Festival goers of all ages could be found throughout the site, as parents pushed children in strollers and older patrons pulled carts full of supplies for a day of picnics and music amid uncertain weather.
“Our festival is a little bit different because it’s multi-generational,” Salmonsen said. “We want families to come.”
The first Vancouver Folk Music Festival took place in 1978 in Stanley Park. In 1979, it moved to its current location on Jericho Beach. This year, the event celebrates its 45th anniversary.
Local vendors, many returning to the festival circuit for the first time since the pandemic shutdown, were reestablishing connections with customers and reconnecting with other vendors.
“We’ve had two years off,” said Jenna Johnson of Cappelleria Bertacchi, which sells hats inspired by Italian designs from the ’40s and ’50s. “There hasn’t been anything outdoors, so it’s nice to just get out and meet people again.” .
“This year, I think it’s more promotional” than sales, he said, noting that the weather hadn’t been entirely cooperative so far.
Johnson said they also had a booth at the recent Khatsahlano street festival. “Most of everyone here was also at the street festival,” he said of the festival vendors.
“I keep hearing over and over again from people in the park about how great it is to see their friends they haven’t seen in three years or to go back to their favorite food truck,” Salmonsen said.
Julie Sawatsky, a hula hoop surrounding her as she danced to the Rome-inspired rhythms of Lache Cercel Roma Jazz on the West stage, agreed.
“It’s really cool to have all the positive vibes, the great community and the people,” he said after seeing the set of Lache Cercel.
“There are a lot of people talking about ‘can you send harmony to the world?’” he said. “I think that’s the feeling here.”
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