Every year on the second weekend of August, Regina’s Victoria Park undergoes a transformation resulting in the assembly of over 35,000 people and 650 volunteers. This annual reunion is known as the Regina Folk Festival (RFF). Not only has RFF been a summer staple since I can remember, but its legacy stems back decades (five decades to be exact). This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the RFF and despite a couple of irrefutable roadblocks, the event was a glowing display of half a centuries' dedication to music and culture.
The first of said conflicts arose not long after the lineup release, when it was announced that universal crowd-pleaser, Garth Brooks would be playing Mosaic Stadium on Friday, August 9th (the opening night of RFF). Shortly after this initial announcement, a second concert was added on Saturday, August 10th, overlapping with the second night of the festival. RFF Artistic Director Sandra Butel responded to this discord with unexpected positivity saying that, “you don’t get to be 50 years old without having some pretty solid support in the community.” These words rang true when the Folk Fest lineup played to a packed houses (packed parks?) throughout the weekend. It turned out to be an extremely positive and music-filled weekend for Regina and it was refreshing to see the conflicting events work amicably together to benefit the city as a whole. The busy weekend resulted in hotels being booked solid and food/drink venues achieving optimum net sales.
Due to Saskatchewan's notoriously unpredictable forecasts, both events were delayed on Friday night. With continuous rain showers drenching Regina’s downtown core for the majority of the evening, ticket holders took shelter in centrally-located pubs and restaurants anxiously awaiting the go-ahead to attend their respective concerts. I set up camp in Victoria’s Tavern near Victoria Park, where the clientele integrated a comical combination of “folks” in bohemian garb and country fans wearing Lucchese boots and Stetson hats. Even given the longwinded delay, the city was vibrating with positivity and excitement. After a few hours, both events welcomed their antsy ticket holders, who’s restlessness translated into an incomparable audience dynamic. Each set at Folk Festival was, unfortunately, cut-down to accommodate the city’s noise bylaws - but this certainly did not dampen in the mood in Victoria park (despite the dampness of everything else).
In it's preliminary years, RFF was collaboratively run, with an emphasis on local and regional musicians. It has since expanded to include world-renowned acts but still makes room for some of our hometown heroes. Alongside many indie heavy-hitters, the headliners included Regina’s own The Dead South and Swift Current native Colter Wall. Both performances inspired palpable electricity throughout the audience who was beaming with Saskatchewan pride throughout the local sets. Other major acts included Bahamas, Jason Isbell, and A Tribe Called Red. The latter of the three was a clear embodiment of this year's theme which is based on the Indigenous philosophy of mitakuye-oyas'in meaning, “we’re all family”. Although the Indigenous electronic group is based out of Ottawa, they shared the stage with multiple local First Nations dancers.
RFF defied the odds and pulled through with an unforgettable weekend. This annual congregation in Victoria Park is still undeniably fabulous at 50. Thanks to the devotion of the RFF community, I would be shocked if a 100th birthday wasn’t in the cards for this Saskatchewan Summer Staple.
To learn more about Regina Folk Festival go to: https://reginafolkfestival.com/