Change is in the wind for the Canmore Folk Festival on the August Long Weekend.

The Aug. 3 to 5 festival has expanded to a full day program on Saturday, a site-wide beer gardens is being added, a FolkFest Express will run directly from Calgary, and children under 12 will be admitted free.

New executive director Jenna Klein-Waller says the aim is to attract a younger demographic to the festival that may not have considered attending before.

"A lot of the tradition of the festival I held on to because it is such a wonderful festival, but as with any arts organization, we have to continue to move and change with how the times are changing and how folk is changing," she explains.

"So, we're thinking about how we bring folk to a younger demographic and how do we bring folks that wouldn't necessarily know that a folk festival can be for them. We're just looking to broaden our reach a little bit and still keep it a really fun and family friendly weekend event."

A noticeable change to past attendees will be the sale of beer and wine on the festival grounds. Since established in 1978, it has been a dry festival. 

"We're doing it in a way that it's still going to be family friendly. We've got lots of great community partners working with us along the way, so that's a fairly big change."

Children have always been welcomed at the festival but giving free admission to those under 12 is designed to draw further attention to the possibility.

"This is just another way to get younger families to come, and folks that maybe have kids and didn't really realize that they could bring their kids. There's so much for children to do, so we just wanted to make it a little bit more accessible."

Having transportation available from three locations in Calgary will make it easier for some to attend.

"You don't have to pay for parking. You can just come and not think about it. You can have a beer, you don't have to worry about all that hassle, and it will remove the burden of finding parking in Canmore."

The historic Stan Rogers Stage will feature a powerhouse of established artists, some lesser-known ones who deserve more attention, and others on their way up. 

Blue Rodeo has top billing and will be doing a performance unique to the rest of their summer tour. Melissa McClelland will be joining them on stage to perform the songs of their classic album Five Days in July.

Klein-Waller says they chose that set because of the intimate feel of the album. It's also the only time they'll be performing the album in its entirety on the tour.

"This really sets us apart," she says."You get to see Blue Rodeo in the mountains, in a beautiful setting. with the Five Days in July album on this old historic Stan Rogers Stage."

She's exciting to welcome Dan Mangan. It will be the two-time Juno winners first appearance at the festival.

"He's a folk legend, but also may not be on everyone's radar, so I really wanted to show the diversity of what folk can be. It doesn't have to be all trad, it doesn't have to be all blue grass. We tried to do a sprinkling of everything in there and there's something, I hope, for everyone."

She includes Jeremy Dutcher, a two-spirited Indigenous, classically trained vocalist, on a list of artists that should be on people's radar. He is widely known for his first album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, which won the 2018 Polaris Music Prize and the 2019 Juno Award for Indigenous Music Album of the Year.

"He has trained in music and anthropology studies, and he brings a really intense research study behind his music. His voice is so incredible, and he plays the piano. It'll kind of resonate through the mountains."

Elisapie won the 2024 Juno for Indigenous Contemporary Indigenous Artist of the Year for her fourth solo album Inuktitut. It's a cover album like none other of popular songs from the 60s to 90s.

"You'll hear all these amazing songs, but in her own mother tongue. It's really cool and it's kind  a love story to her own culture. That'll be really incredible to check out, and that's on the same night as Blue Rodeo, so it's going to be a pretty killer night."

The full list of artists is below.

Weekend and daily passes are available for purchase. They tend to sell out quickly and it would be wise to purchase them early. Click here for more details on the festival and to purchase tickets.

folk fest poster