The Calgary Folk Music Festival announced on Thursday that its 2020 three-day main event has been cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“The pandemic paused the presentation of the live music that fuels our diverse community,” the festival said in a news release.
“So, with heavy hearts, we need to share that we have to cancel the 41st annual festival on Prince’s Island Park due to circumstances surrounding COVID-19.”
The festival said it understands this is “tough news” for the entire community, but said it’s committed to the health, safety and well-being of everyone involved in making the festival happen, which includes volunteers, vendors, artisans and of course, artists.
“For 41 years, the Calgary Folk Music Festival has been Calgary’s live music and cultural soul; a vital summer soundtrack for our city and visitors,” the festival said.
Each year, about 53,000 people attend the weekend festival, which takes over the downtown park, to “sing, dance, laugh and revel in magical concerts and collaborations by icons and upstarts from around the corner and the globe.”
The executive director said festival organizers were absolutely heartbroken to make this decision.
“As of today, it is absolutely the right thing to do,” Sara Leishman said. “We know that.”
Leishman said the decision was made after several conversations with the festival’s partners, the city and volunteers. They also had to take into account the travel required by artists who play at the festival.
“We arrived on the conclusion that we were unable to proceed for this year.”
While speaking about the cancellation of the Stampede, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi thanked the folk festival for making the right decision.
“I know that this was enormously difficult,” Nenshi said.
“For me, one highlight of my summer is riding a horse at the front of that parade and another highlight of my summer is taking my shoes off and being barefoot on that island in the middle of the city listening to the transformative power of music and art. And ultimately, these organizations that are so incredibly important to our city are doing the right thing. They’re doing exactly the right thing for ultimately keeping everybody safe”
Those who have already bought their tickets for the 2020 folk festival are eligible for a full refund or they can donate their ticket back to the festival and get a tax receipt.
The festival itself is the marquee event for the Calgary Folk Music Festival, but the organization holds events year-round, including its smaller-scale winter festival, Block Heater.
“We know it’s a challenging time for many folks,” the festival said.
“As a charitable arts organization in these uncertain times, we want to offer our sincere gratitude for your ongoing support of the Calgary Folk Music Festival.”
Leishman said the folk festival accounts for approximately 41 per cent of the organization’s budget, so the financial impact will be huge.
“We’re looking at ways of being able to access funding through various streams. We’re going to be relying on our community. So one of the opportunities is if you did purchase a ticket, certainly, you can ask for a refund. You also have an opportunity to donate your ticket as well to be able to help the organization.”
The festival said it’s planning digital programming in the coming months, and over the next year, for would-be festival-goers and the general public to enjoy.
“Most of all, we look forward to sharing a joyful festival on our beloved Prince’s Island home in July 2021,” the festival said.
The Calgary Folk Music Festival is the latest in a long line of festivals to cancel their summer events, including Calgary’s Sled Island Music and Arts festival, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, the Regina Folk Festival and the Winnipeg Folk Fest.