A new cannabis consumption area brought vices to the forefront of the conversation of the 2019 edition of the Calgary Folk Music Festival.“Lots of people are talking about cannabis,” said artistic director Kerry Clarke.Otherwise, it was business as usual for the 40th edition of the popular summertime festival. Saturday was sold out with more than 14,000 people on Prince’s Island; more than 11,000 were on the island for Thursday, Friday and Sunday enjoying the diverse music, beautiful weather — excepting a five-minute freak rain and wind storm Saturday — and chill vibes.The cannabis consumption site was the notable new addition to the festival. Clarke said several thousand people visited the site, blacked out by a tarp and tucked away in the far corner of the festival grounds beside Community Natural Foods Stage 6. The new vice also brought a new sight to the grounds: roving private security guards, who were also in charge of checking ID at the cannabis consumption site. The festival has always had private security, but they decided to get them on the move to monitor cannabis consumption outside of the designated area.
From left, Chloe Immonen, Bella White and Dayna Moritz are seen dancing during a musical workshop on the National Stage during the 40th annual Calgary Folk Music Festival at Prince’s Island Park on Sunday, July 28, 2019. Brendan Miller/Postmedia
Alcohol consumption was confined to the beer gardens, as usual, though plenty of patrons were hoping this would be the last year for that. While there is a board committee exploring the concept of an all-site licence, “I wouldn’t say it was an organizational priority,” Clarke said.“Firstly, it’s a change in culture,” Clarke added. “The beer gardens hold 3,500 people, it’s not insignificant. It’s double the number of people that might go to other smaller festivals that might have all-site licensing.”She says they’d be required to have one “supervisor” per 100 patrons, which means an all-site licence would add to the nearly 1,900 volunteers the festival already manages.“Also, it’s a family event,” Clarke continued. “If there’s a bunch of people drinking at main stage is the behaviour different? And there’s the environment. I’ve been to festivals where they say, ‘we care about the environment’ and ‘don’t throw your cups on the ground.’ They hand out flyers that waste paper and at the end of the night, you see cups all over the ground. We have good volunteers that pick that stuff up, but it’s also easier if it’s all contained.”Regardless of which vices patrons indulged in, there were plenty of musical highlights. Denver soul rockers Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, and Scottish twee-pop band Belle & Sebastian had memorable main-stage performances, while genres from folk to electronic, soul to rock entertained fans at the five other stages spread throughout the island.The festival has been continuously successful, which means any changes won’t be big, Clarke said.“We’ve got something good,” said Clarke. “We’ve got an amazing site, we’ve got a great diversity of audience and artists, so we’re going to keep that up. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We don’t have to start something from scratch. If someone was going to start something from scratch, they’d probably think, we kind of want to do it like the folk fest.”email@example.comTwitter: @thejonroe