Folk Festival to change dates after decades of following the St. John's Regatta

The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival is set to move ahead in the calendar, with the 2020 festival scheduled for July 10-12 in Bannerman Park in St. John's.

For decades, the festival has been held on the weekend following the weather-dependant Royal St. John's Regatta on the first Wednesday in August, leaving both the Regatta and the folk festival at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Erin Whitney, the folk festival's executive director, says because both events share many of the same volunteers, resources and vendors, there was a significant risk of problems for the folk festival if the Regatta was rescheduled due to weather.

That's why, Whitney said, the decision to change the timing of the festival was made, but it was not a decision that was made lightly.

"We understand that the date really is very important to people, it's traditionally been held on that date pretty much since the beginning of the festival," she said.

"Ultimately, we discussed it quite a bit and realized that the risk is just too great to deal with that potential delay of the Regatta, that the time has come to make a decision and move forward with the date change."

Submitted by Alick Tsui

'Tight and precise schedule' 

Whitney said the folk festival organizers have been lucky in recent years, as the Regatta hasn't been postponed in about 10 years, but the festival has also grown considerably in that time and the redevelopment of Bannerman Park has changed the way things are moved in and out of the park.

"Back then, you could drive vehicles and supplies in straight off Bannerman Road, but since The Loop has been put there, you can't drive over that," she said.

"Everything has to come in through that narrow gate off Military Road, so that means that we do have to keep a very tight and precise schedule … so you can imagine that throwing that off would cause a cavalcade of complications."

Those sorts of delays in getting equipment and volunteers to the park on such a tight schedule, Whitney said, would likely mean cancelling performances, something festival organizers want to avoid. 

She said after checking the availability of Bannerman Park and the infrastructure necessary to put off the festival, July 10-12 was chosen.

That date could become the new norm for the folk festival. 

"I can't imagine that we would go back to being the weekend after the Regatta, but we may look at different weekends going forward."

The festival said the lineup of the 44th Annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival is expected to be announced in the spring.

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