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Why Ally Corbett is heading home for the NL Folk Fest and why you should go too

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When the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival announced that the July 13 headliners this year were Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris, it was the winning combination that convinced me to pack up my family and drive home for a few weeks this summer. I’ve been living on the mainland of Canada for a good while, like many others in the Newfoundland diaspora community, so this was a great reason to go home! There are plenty of other things to be excited about at the festival, but the Saturday night line-up is the shining jewel in the crown of events. If you are near St. John’s, here are some of the highlights that you won’t want to miss this year!

Friday, July 12

The festival gets underway at around 6 p.m. in Bannerman Park, a staple of the St. John’s downtown landscape. The opening ceremonies include a Newfoundland-Ukrainian dance company (Dolya Dance Company) and throat singers from Labrador (Sophie Angnatok & Ashley Dicker). Performances by Alex Taylor, Maryna Krut, Nico Paulo, Ourobouros, Digging Roots, Balaklava Blues and William Prince round out the night and are a great start to the fest!

As always, the party continues in St. John’s and there is a late-night at The Ship Pub with Andrew Smith and The Old Contemporaries starting around 11 p.m. with some bluegrass/Canadiana. These late nights are not to be missed, but, ya’ know, pace yourself! It’s only the first night!

Saturday, July 13:

There are a few different options for enjoying the free daytime entertainment that the NL Folk Fest has to offer. The Neil Murray tent highlights up-and-coming folk acts from Newfoundland, the craft tent highlights Newfoundland crafting traditions (e.g. rug hooking, yarn spinning), and the traditions tent features performers who delve into different aspects of Newfoundland cultural performance (e.g. telling tales, fiddle styles). The Réseau culturel francophone de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador Tent also presents programming that highlights the rich Francophone connections and French history of Newfoundland.

In addition to the specialty event tents, a few “main events” occur throughout the day on the Daytime Stage. Here are a few must-dos!

At 11 a.m., try the traditional Newfoundland dance “Running the Goat.” This is a group dance indigenous to the community of Harbour Deep. This set dance has its own traditional tune, which will be performed by fiddler Evelyn Osborne.

At 2 p.m., the NL Folk Fest presents Mario Kart Live, where festival attendees can sign up to race while listening to the familiar Mario Kart tracks performed LIVE by a group of talented musicians!

The Festival Main Stage opens at 4 p.m., with performances by Anuri Qilaujjaqtiit, Sherry Ryan, Allan Ricketts, Richard Neville, Mo Kenney, Bageshree Vaze Ensemble, Duane Andrews & The Hot Club of Conception Bay, Steve Earle, and Emmylou Harris. This is literally just hit after hit on this stage. Prepare to be totally blown away!

Again, if you are feeling like celebrating after the big show on the main stage, head to The Ship Pub to catch local rocker Mick Davis & The Thin Love playing all the classic rock & roll hits to keep you dancing the night away.

Sunday, July 14

At 10 a.m. in the Traditions tent, the annual gospel workshop takes place with Karla Pilgrim, Eleanor Dawson, and Linda Byrne. You won’t want to miss these powerhouse voices and their vast repertoire!

At 11 a.m., the local Wonderbolt Circus will be doing a performance on the daytime stage. This is followed by a concert from beloved entertainers Splash ‘n Boots at 12 p.m., so it’s a grand time to settle in with the littles at the big stage!

The Traditions tent will be on the go from 1 p.m. – 2 p.m., with performances by Emilia Bartellas, Doug Dorward, and De Temps Antan that feature Newfoundland and Scottish tunes. Stay cozy in the same tent at 2 p.m. for some bluegrass with local band High & Lonesome.

If you’re feeling particularly crafty, there is a spoon carving demonstration in the craft tent from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., which will undoubtedly also be stunning.

At 3 p.m., catch local favourite Adrian House at the Réseau culturel francophone de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador Tent for some catchy original Francophone music!

The festival main stage opens again at 4 p.m., featuring Katie Anne Colbourne, Port-Aux-Poutines, Doug Dorward Collective, Portage, Charlie Rose and Sydney Equinor, Maria Cherwick & Jockey Special, De Temps Antan, and The Ennis Sisters.

The festival concludes with the song, “Ode to Newfoundland,” so brush up on your lyrics if you don’t already know it!

For a full festival line-up, check out https://nlfolk.com/festival/schedule/

For ticket information, visit https://nlfolk.com/festival/info/

Some other important info for enjoying the NL Folk Fest

1. All daytime events are free of charge!

2. Kids 12 and under are free, but they need a ticket, so you should reserve a ticket online before heading to the gate to make sure you can get one. There is a limit of two kids’ tickets per paying adult.

3. There are no food vendors during the daytime programming, and the Snack Shack is no longer open. Bring a picnic and water for a great day in the park!

4. In the evening, there will be a variety of food and beverage vendors onsite, and beer & wine is available in the licensed area.
You may bring your own snacks and non-alcoholic beverages into the festival in sealed plastic containers only. No glass.

5. There is a public water filling station on the mainstage grounds.

6. There are also some events leading up to the festival that are part of the NL Folk Fest expansion!

Tuesday, July 9
Quidi Vidi Taproom – Folk’d Up Beer Launch
07:00 p.m. – 09:00 p.m.
High & Lonesome

Wednesday, July 10
The Ship Pub – Folk Festival Launch Session Feature Graham Wells
09:00 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Graham Wells

Thursday, July 11
The Ship Pub – Nuit Francophone
09:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Mary Barry
10:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Louise Gauthier

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