Shelter Valley Folk Festival began around a kitchen table in the fall of 2003, imagined by local songwriter and arts advocate Aengus Finnan. A dedicated group of friends and strangers (a lawyer, a social worker, an art therapist, a recent art college grad, a songwriter, an engineer, a newspaper reporter, a retired teacher, a high-school student, and a Fair Trade coffee-shop entrepreneur) gathered regularly to envision what a cultural community event centred on fantastic folk music might look like and entail.
Shelter Valley Folk Festival opened its gates Labour Day weekend 2004 and welcomed just over 200 volunteers and 700 attendees, most of whom had never been to a folk festival. It has endured through Hurricane Ernesto in 2006, a memorable event for our hardy festival folks who attended.
The festival organization has also grown over the years, incorporating as a registered Ontario Not-for-Profit in 2006, and graduating to full Federal Charitable Status in 2007 and has since expanded its year-round programming to provide Community Outreach through an "Artists in the Schools" program and Community Concert Series. In recent years the festival has created "The Village Sessions" a unique small group style learning experience, and holds fundraising events to provide the community and donors exciting way to support the organization and community.
With each festival, the reputation and audience has grown but the organization has been mindful of the "quality over quantity" approach, keeping in mind how best to manage all changes and expansion. To date the planned limit for ticket sales remains, ensuring volunteers are able to provide an exceptional experience for all in attendance. Described by the Toronto Star as "gentle, humanistic, environmentally attuned, and abundantly caring" the festival has become a signature event drawing artists, audience, volunteers and sponsors from across the country.
In addition to concerts and workshops on a series of daytime stages and an evening Main Stage, the festival includes a village space showcasing local potters, painters, photographers, and one-of-a-kind crafts at the hand-maker's marketplace, as well as quality harvest food purveyors, wellness practitioners and sustainable living experts (providing interactive displays and engaging seminars and workshops).
Recently, the festival has offered free admission for children 13 and under, making the festival a perfect event for families to enjoy the children's area complete with performers, interactive arts workshops, and a lovely children's parade that rounds out the festival experience.
A cherished feature of the festival, our on-site, open field camping offers communal fire pits for festival goers to join in the hosted song circles, instruments in hand and voices warmed and ready.
We are thankful to the many hands and hearts that have made this festival possible over the years. We're sad to see it go, (read here about the festival's closure) but look forward to seeing what our community will do going forward.