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.

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  1. avatar
    Krow Fischer! 11 August, 2010 at 13:04

    Ya, it is the most magical place on earth. Blue Skies raised my childern, and they would count to days to Blue Skies how other kids counted for Christmas. I love Blue Skies, it is my soul oasis.

  2. avatar
    Michael Griffin 11 August, 2010 at 16:18

    The magic of Blue Skies is just that: magic. It has survived the “me” decade, the onslaught of uranium miners, divorces and new marriages, deaths and births. What it is is simply the spirit of people who love each other, the land and the art that only can exist when there is freedom of expression. It is as Canadian as possible under the circumstances.

  3. avatar
    Shirley Wheatley 28 January, 2011 at 13:54

    Blue Skies has thrilled,supported,moved and nourished my soul for 30 years. My son went for the 1st time at 3 yrs, now 32 and has never missed one including the summer he was gigging in Bermuda for 6 months and FLEW BACK FOR THE WEEKEND!—and, yes all our kids would say they’d miss Christmas before the’d miss Blue Skies. It has changed my life and taught me so many wonderful life lessons about working and playing in community. Long may it run!

  4. avatar
    Nicola 30 January, 2011 at 12:02

    My kids don’t know summer without it. Even now my older son lives in Halifax but makes it home every year so he can be there. The magic comes from the fact that there is no corporate sponsorship and everything is done by volunteers except for the music. There aren’t many events that have that quality of ‘not doing it to please the sponsor’.

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