The annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival is my can’t-miss cultural event, with spiritual high points too. A beautiful community is recreated every year inside the gates at Jericho Beach Park where thousands come from near and far to enjoy a fantastic world of music from just about every genre short of classical.
The Folk Fest began in 1978 and I’ve been coming since the early 1980s. I covered it for 13 years for The Province daily newspaper, and for the last several years I’ve been editing the performer profiles for the program guide to earn my weekend pass and meals backstage with the rest of the volunteers.
For two decades now there’s been an announcement from the main stage inviting people to gather by a large tree near the fence by the beach to welcome Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest that begins at sundown Friday and continues until sundown Saturday. And every year a couple dozen Jews and friends answer the call. Except for two years where I filled in, Rabbi David Mivasair has been leading the prayers and blessings.
We light candles, bless challah bread and the fruit of the vine, and sing to welcome the Shabbat angels and celebrate how brothers and sisters can dwell together – this year Hadani Ditmars added a Muslim prayer. Saturday evenings we gather again to usher out Shabbat and welcome the new week.
Another spiritual high point for me is the annual gospel workshop on Sunday mornings at 10 at Stage 2. One year, it was missing from the schedule – the nerve! – but returned the following year due to popular demand. We all sing up a storm.
Speaking of storms, from the weather forecast, it looks like rain will hold off until Monday, sparing festival goers but dousing the folks who will be dismantling the site. Rain has often come on the festival weekend, and until I sold my nearby house in 2003 I had a comfy refuge. More recently I’ve been able to retreat to the covered dining area backstage.
More information about the Folk Fest here.
The Crooked Brothers perform at the Vancouver Folk Festival.
The sun sets over the porta potties at the Folk Fest.