It was August, 2012 when I first walked through the gates at the Shelter Valley Folk Festival. To say that it was love at first sight would be an understatement. As I took in the spectacular beauty of the festival site (also known as the Henkel Family Lavender Farm), I finally realized what people meant when they spoke so reverently about the “rolling hills of Northumberland”.
When my husband and I made the decision to attend SVFF for the first time, we had recently moved to Cobourg and had recently become parents. Those 2012 weekend passes represented, to us, a chance to see what life in our new neck-of-the-woods had to offer, as well as a chance to do something with our baby that we had enjoyed doing pre-parenthood. We didn’t go into that year’s festival with many expectations, apart from expecting to get out of the house and to hear some great music.
We did hear some great music that year. (Amazing music, in fact.) What we didn’t expect, however, was that the festival would offer us so much more than this. From the moment we arrived at the festival, we felt right at home. In retrospect, I think this had a lot to do with the people. From the volunteers to the other festival-goers to the performers, each person we came across was unfailingly kind, gracious and helpful. The smiles on everyone’s faces made it clear just how devoted everyone was to the festival, and we quickly felt surrounded by and part of a caring community.
Our sense of being right at home also had to do with the festival site, which – while immense in its beauty and rustic charm – is actually quite small in size, making it feel safe, comfortable and manageable for a young family. We found that we could move easily between the music stages, the children’s village, the harvest food area and the arts and wellness villages, and that there was more than enough time and space to experience everything we wished to.
That was four years ago, and my family – now a foursome – has attended SVFF every year since. We continue to feel right at home at the festival, and it has been a beautiful thing to see how the festival has become part of our children’s lives. Our two little ones are more than happy to spend the entire weekend at the festival, playing and creating in the wonderful children’s village, listening to music, and running through the fields with old and new friends. At last year’s festival they even came across a big-hearted security volunteer who had set up a kids’ face-painting station at his post, which, to my mind, tells you everything you need to know about the spirit of SVFF.
And so the festival has become my family’s Labour Day Weekend tradition, and we couldn’t ask for a better one. In addition to offering us wonderful music, gourmet food and delightful activities for our children, it represents a time for us to be together, to slow down, and to rejuvenate. It is a chance for us to celebrate the end of summer, a chance for us to gently ease ourselves into the next phase of things. It has become part of the rhythm of our year and part of the fabric of our lives.
As the years have passed, my appreciation for SVFF has continued to grow. In order to show my appreciation to the festival that has offered my family so much, this year I have decided to become a festival volunteer. I can hardly wait to become even more involved in the SVFF community and to be one of the smiling faces that make this year’s first-time festival-goers feel right at home.
- Christy Flindal