As we age we change, and it seems this axiom holds true even for music festivals. Last week the Stan Rogers Folk Festival announced that, after 21 years, the event would change its date from the first weekend in July to the last weekend of the month. Long perceived as a harbinger of summer, the festival has been plagued by difficult weather – hurricane winds and lashing downpours-- which in large part led to a change of date for the festival.
Troy Greencorn, artistic director of Stanfest said in an interview on Saturday that there were a variety of reasons for the date change including “the weather experiences that we have had over the years -- especially in recent years. In the past four years we have had two years that were extreme weather events with a complete cancellation in 2014. And this year was the most extreme rain we ever had...three days of hard, steady rain; it was the only weekend of the whole summer that was like that.”
Greencorn admits that there can never be any guarantee about the weather. “It’s a gamble at best but we feel the odds are better mid-summer.”
In the past year, the Stanfest team have done their due diligence in researching weather patterns and summer event schedules in the Maritimes. “When we started 20 years ago we based it on the national schedule,” said Greencorn of the festival date. “Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary -- the first weekend was available so we made our decision on that basis. But over the past five years we thought, ‘Is it that critical to be the first weekend of the summer?’”
Over the years, said Greencorn, the festival has had feedback from potential festival-goers which pointed to the date; at the end of school and in graduation season, as the reason they never made it to the festival.
The original festival date often fell on the Canada Day weekend. The holiday worked in the festival’s favour in some instances, people would have a long weekend to travel and attend Stanfest, and to its detriment in others, people attended Canada Day celebrations in their hometowns or in major cities rather than travel to Canso for Stanfest. “This past year was more competitive than ever because of Canada 150,” said Greencorn.
In the end the decision was made to change the date, a decision, said Greencorn, that was not simple. Consultations were held with volunteer crew leaders, local businesses, suppliers and partners. “It took about two and a half months of contemplation, research and reaching out to all the different players in the festival. Looking back on it now, I can’t think of a reason not to move it. I guess why we hadn’t was, in general, something this big, you don’t move it because you want to keep it predictable. For that reason we did not want to mess with it. But when you have two out of four years with crippling weather; you have to look at it.”
Greencorn said that the change in date was something Stanfest organizers thought they had to do to make sure the event remains successful and grows. He points to the four decades of success of music festivals such as the Winnipeg Folk Festival, on which Stanfest was modelled.
“There’s no reason that Stanfest won’t be 40 years old...It’s sustainable...Nobody is going to cancel a quota. There’s no natural gas reserve that will eventually be depleted. Virtually every industry is connected to some resource and this one isn’t. People are always going to want to hear good music and hang out with a couple thousand favourite people and enjoy a good time.”