Stanfest 2016

20 years on: The tradition grows

By John Bastin    

CANSO – It’s been a fun-filled, song-filled, sun- and rain- and wind-filled 20-year journey. And not without some notable bumps along the way.

For two decades now the seaside community of Canso has played host to thousands of music fans, accomplished artists and up-and-comers for the annual Stan Rogers Folk Festival. A volunteer-driven success story, the team behind Stanfest could take a generous measure of satisfaction this past weekend in reaching such a significant milestone with yet another successful event.

This year it was a reunion of sorts, bringing old friends together again, and in some cases a family reunion -- or new family tradition.

Truro couple Rob and Lavinia Carreau, for example, were StanFest regulars during the early years but stopped coming when their children came along. Now, however, their kids are old enough to enjoy the festival themselves, so it’s become a family affair. “We’ve grown up with this festival,” says Lavinia. “It’s a part of who we are.”

Stanfest itself is in many ways a family. This was made evident during the ‘Singing Stan’ session on Sunday’s Mainstage. As Stan Rogers’ family members performed some of his best songs along with other musicians, old and young alike in the audience waved their hands back and forth, shed a tear or two, and sang along to every word.

Since over 85 per cent of attendees have shown up at 15 or more of the festival’s 20 years, it’s no surprise that the vibe in 2016 is much more family-oriented than in those early years. It’s reflected in the connections between audience members, between performers and the audience, and, most importantly, the community and the festival.

The future of Stanfest was in doubt two years ago, when Hurricane Arthur resulted in the cancellation of the event. Buoyed by a “Rise Again” fundraising and friend-raising campaign, the festival did indeed come back the next year, and showed its strength once again with big crowds and memorable performances this past Thursday to Sunday.

The lifeblood of Stanfest, besides the music itself, is the hundreds of volunteers who give of themselves each year and make one of Canada’s best folk festivals possible, right here at home.