by Jon Farmer
In 2003, when I was 13, I begged my parents to take me to see Ron Sexsmith at Summerfolk. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't convince them. The next year I attended Summerfolk as a volunteer. I decided I would never miss one again and I haven't.

It's difficult to explain the magic of Summerfolk to someone who has never been. It's more than just good music and gorgeous art in a beautiful setting. It's a catalyst for connections. By the third weekend of August, the season is winding down. Summerfolk is a friendly celebration, a collective farewell to warm days and vacations. Audiences discover new musical loves and artistic treasures. Friendly strangers mingle in front of stages, singing along, and comparing new CDs.

Festivals have natural rhythms and I learned the Summerfolk routine quickly:soak up workshops through the day, dance Down by the Bay until 1am, follow musicians to the campground across the road, jam with strangers until your eyes can't stay open, repeat. I met people in front of stages and at bonfire jam sessions who return to Summerfolk every year to camp in the same spots or volunteer on the same crews. I met families who treat Summerfolk as a reunion. I became one of those people and every year I look for friendly faces.

Even rain doesn't dampen the joy. In 2011 a mid-afternoon thunderstorm forced the sound crews to shut down their equipment. Ken Whitely, Kildear, and the Good Lovelies were just starting a workshop at the Gazebo Stage. When the sound was turned off, they invited the entire audience to come in under cover and sang while rain pelted backs and umbrellas. They performed an acoustic set that culminated with Ken Whitely leading the crowd in swelling harmonies on "This Little Light of Mine". It was fitting for a festival that just keeps shining. Order tickets at or 1-888-655-9090. August 20 to 23. Kelso Beach Park in Owen Sound. See you there.

This was first published on paper in Mosaic.


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