Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

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Just up the block from Moo Moo's Ice Cream in downtown St. John's, Newfoundland is Bannerman Park (trust me to base directions on ice cream). A wide, expansive park, with a playground, lush grassy areas, and plenty of trees, a visit earlier in the week showed me just that - a park. But once a year in early August, this park transforms into a world-class music venue, as it hosts the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival. 
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

I didn't know what to expect, as I showed my press pass and entered, but I will tell you that this quickly became one of the highlights of my time in St. John's - so much so that in a very packed schedule, I visited on two days.
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

Now in its 40th year, the NL Folk Festival is a three-day extravaganza that features local and global musical talents. It's held the weekend after the Royal St. John's Regatta, the oldest sporting event in North America. Run by the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society, this is one musical event you should make plans to attend.

It's more than music - it's community.

Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

Here are 13 things you need to know:

Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

 

Everyone goes

Take the family! There is something for everyone here, and the atmosphere is friendly and open to all. I saw many families in attendance, enjoying themselves. Go by yourself, or with friends. I saw people of all ages - it was lovely.
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

Warm welcome

I had many interesting conversations here, including several with volunteers that highlighted the warmth and friendliness of Canadians. Wherever you go, the volunteers (so many! Thank you!) will help you find what you need. And if you're alone (as I was, on one visit), there are conversations and new friends aplenty to be had. 
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

Culture

Besides learning about Newfoundland culture, there are many others to explore - French music at the Espace Franco stage, global cuisine at the food trucks, a variety of global music on all stages, and people from all over the world in attendance. There are booths from the Rooms, the Canadian Parks, and more. There are free activities for kids (YAY!), and a huge tent selling art, music, shirts, and crafts. There is dancing at all stages, of course. There is storytelling, one of my favorite ways to learn about people, culture, and what's important, wherever we are in the world.
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

Spread out

The festival is held all througout the park - so explore, and see what's happening in a variety of tents and areas. If you like to move around, this festival is for you. There's so much to see, do, and listen to that you might feel as if you're missing out. Here's a tip: YOU ARE. You can't help it! There's too much goodness scheduled at all times. Accept that fact, and do your best. And while there are probably 10,000 people attending the festival, you're never crowded, jostled, or have people invading your personal space. Like Newfoundland itself, there's plenty of room to spread out.
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

Eat!

OH MY GOSH. Well, first, get the poutine. Might as well go local, while you're in Atlantic Canada. But there are also many other food booths and trucks, including Rocket Bakery (my favorite), Blue on Water (a local restaurant), Ziggy Peelgood's french fries, gelato, and the Newfoundland Chocolate Company. 
Poutine! Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Food trucks galore. Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

Play

Music - there are open jam sessions, if you're interested. If your kids want to expend energy besides dancing, there are playground structures in the park. You can hear the music while your kids play.

Dance

At the folk festival, there are opportunities for dancing! Look on the schedule - you'll see workshops galore. Also, people dance to all the performances at all stages! Find a space at the front or to the side, and dance away.
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

Support young musicians

One of the venues at the festival is the TD Neil Murray Stage, which highlights young musicians. My favorite here was also featured on the main stage - Mike Aylward, who won first place during the 2015 NewfoundTalent competition. 
Mike Aylward. Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Listen:

 

Old favorites

Find your old favorites! From years of publishing renowned music writer Kerry Dexter's articles on Wandering Educators, I knew of some of the groups, including Nuala Kennedy and Eamon O'Leary.
Nuala Kennedy and Eamon O'Leary. From Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

I made sure to locate them on the schedule for the main stage, and head over to hear. I was rewarded by their lovely music. Listen:

 

New favorites

You'll also find new favorites at the Folk Festival. No worries - the music tent has cds so you can listen at home and support the musicians. 
music for sale. Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
 I absolutely loved hearing the song The Banks of Newfoundland, by Matthew Byrne. In fact, I took more video than photos (completely rare for me!). Listen:

 

Accessibility

This festival was completely accessible. I was very impressed, and could get around easily with my wheelchair scooter. There were safety bumps over cords in the paths, handicap bathrooms and seating, and plenty of room to move around. THANK YOU!
Fantastic Accessibility. From Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Fantastic Accessibility. From Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Fantastic Accessibility. From Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Fantastic Accessibility. From Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Fantastic Accessibility. From Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

What to bring

Something to sit on, such as a chair or blanket. There are a few benches scattered around the park, but they aren't close to the stages. Bring your instruments for the open jam sessions. You can pack a picnic (no alcohol), if you'd like. There is an area near the main stage that is separated by a fence, with picnic tables and plenty of space, where you can buy and drink beer with your food. It's monitored, so no worries that your kids will wander in.
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

Final thoughts

This festival has it all - headliners, local favorites, plenty to eat and drink and do, areas to run and play, and a joyful, convivial atmosphere I've not seen anywhere else. If you haven't been to a music festival, you'll be pleasantly surprised by how open, friendly, and interesting this is. If you have been to music festivals, then you'll know that the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival is very, very special. Highly recommended.
Everything You Need to Know about the Newfoundland Folk Festival

Learn more and purchase tickets:
http://nlfolk.com/newfoundland-labrador-folk-festival/

 

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