The Magic of Blue Skies
Blue Skies Folk Festival is an event unlike any festival I’ve experienced on the Canadian scene.
While all fests have their magic, there’s a unique feeling about Blue Skies, as if it exists in a world unto itself.
As a first-timer to the fest, hosting a ukulele workshop, I tried to put my finger on it. After all, like many festivals, Blue Skies boasts the usual array of small stages (all acoustic but the mainstage), stuff for the kids, entertainment from across the folk-roots-trad-blues-world spectrum, late night campfire jams and all the rest.
What is it, exactly, that makes this legendarily “secret” festival so special?
There’s the remote location, well into the deep woods on the southern edge of the Canadian Shield about an hour and a half from Peterborough, Ottawa, and Kingston.
There’s the gorgeous setting – marshes, low rocky hills, narrow grassy valleys feeding organically into a large, open hillside where the main stage nestles.
There’s the long history of the festival as a community event, started by a group of friends back in the early seventies on what was then luthier Oskar Graf‘s country property.
There’s the family factor, as up to three generations of die-hards proudly vie for most comfy campsite, generously sharing their food and drink, the space, the scene, and the iconic cold showers with grace and laughter.
There’s the near-total commitment of volunteers, workshoppers, artists and paid attendees to maintain a sense of freedom of spirit and a small ecological footprint.
There’s the whisper-whisper reputation of the festival: lacking even a website, it sells out every year, and on a word-of-mouth basis alone the few available tickets are snapped up in a lottery.
There’s the madcap energy of Magoo, the longtime MC, and the wild whimsy of the childrens’ parade, and the down-home fun of the square dance and the deep emotional pull of the gospel workshop/worship…
Whatever it is, it’s real, and it has to be seen to be believed. Blue Skies is like an oasis of the human spirit.
Photos by James Dean Photography.