The N.L. Folk Festival is coming back to Bannerman Park in St. John's after 2-year hiatus

·3 min read
A decades-old festival returns to Bannerman Park in downtown St. John's this summer. (Submitted by Alick Tsui - image credit)
A decades-old festival returns to Bannerman Park in downtown St. John's this summer. (Submitted by Alick Tsui - image credit)
Submitted by Alick Tsui
Submitted by Alick Tsui

The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival is back after a couple of disrupted years caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizers held a launch announcement Tuesday morning in St. John's with live traditional music to get the vibes just right for the 46th annual iteration of the concert series.

"Like a lot of things that got cancelled due to COVID, you don't realize how emotional it is to have them come back," Sean Panting, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society, told CBC News.

The festival was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but did move online with a free video series featuring music, story and dance. In 2021 the festival was disrupted again but moved ahead with a hybrid set up with small performances in small venues across St. John's and an online series in the fall.

Danny Arsenault/CBC
Danny Arsenault/CBC

This year it's back in Bannerman Park in downtown St. John's, running from July 8 to July 10, and is expected to draw thousands of fans.

"To have a home in Bannerman Park and be able to go back there, that's huge for people," Panting said.

Billy Sutton, a multi-instrumentalist, producer, and recording engineer from Harbour Grace, helped kick off the announcement on Tuesday with his fiddle, alongside other musicians.

Danny Arsenault/CBC
Danny Arsenault/CBC

Sutton said musicians have missed having the festival in its regular operation at the park.

"It's a big, kind of 'come together' event for the summer. It's like a gathering for everybody who don't get to see each other throughout the year," Sutton told CBC News.

"It's a good kick start to getting back to gigging, getting back to some sort of normalcy."

'It's kind of prestigious'

Sutton said the Folk Festival is huge for the province and a big part of its culture. His first time on the festival's stage was in 1995.

He said it's a great way to showcase different kinds of music and it's big deal for new artists to get featured in the lineup.

"It's kind of prestigious. I remember the first time I did it. It's huge," he said.

Danny Arsenault/CBC
Danny Arsenault/CBC

Up and coming performers agree the festival is something to strive for.

Luke Mercer, 13, plays accordion with Salt Beef Junkies. While this year's series is not his first time on a Folk Festival stage, it will mark his first time on the main stage.

Mercer has been playing music for eight years, starting when he was just five years old, and he hasn't looked back since.

"It started off with smaller gigs and it started to go up," he said.

But this year's festival is a little more special. Mercer said it's his group's biggest gig yet.

"I think it's a great thing. It's always been a dream of mine to play on the main stage at the Folk Festival," he said.

"At 13, I think that's pretty good."

Other acts included on this year's bill are The Kubasonics, The Once and Rose Cousins among many more.

Tickets go on sale Friday.

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