What began in 1976 as a single-day, 100-person event highlighting rural folk musicians across Newfoundland and Labrador has become a three-day, 10,000-person celebration with performers from around the world lighting up St. John’s. The Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival, run by the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Arts Society and held in the province’s famously musical capital, showcases the unique culture of the province while also inviting folk musicians of all sorts to the party.
The festival, which features drink, food and artisan tents, takes over historic Bannerman Park for three days every August. Between musical acts, attendees can attend a number of interactive workshops where they can learn a traditional dance, participate in a communal craft, or participate in some storytelling. The festival also organizes additional late-night shows and events around St. John’s for those wanting to explore beyond the park.
The festival line-ups have been dotted with beloved Canadian performers over the years. In recent years, this list has included The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie, Sarah Harmer, Joel Plaskett, Jenn Grant, Basia Bulat and family-friendly favourite Fred Penner. As the festival aims to support up-and-coming talent in the region, many local performers have amazed festival audiences in St. John’s before gaining national and international fame, including Hey Rosetta!, the Once and the Dardanelles.
In recent years, the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival has taken on a number of inclusivity initiatives, providing listening devices, a quiet tent and loanable wheelchairs. The festival prides itself on being both physically accessible and hearing and sight accessible.