Mudcat Café message #109067 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #8848   Message #109067
Posted By: Bob Landry
27-Aug-99 - 02:09 PM
Thread Name: Stan Rogers Folk Festival, 1999
Subject: RE: Stan Rogers Folk Festival 1999
I received this column via email today ... thought it might interest fans of Stan Rogers. The author, Silver Donald Cameron, is a full-time resident of Isle Madame (Cape Breton, NS) and the brother of author Stevie Cameron, who wrote an infamous book on Canada's former Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney.

Bob

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HALIFAX CHRONICAL HERALD -- July 7, 1999

SAILING TO THE MUSIC

by Silver Donald Cameron

We cast off from the Isle Madame Boat Club at 7:30 on the first Saturday morning of July, the sun already high in the sky, the westerly breeze gentle and fitful, the sea sloppy and careless after a gale the day before.*Jennifer and Jean*is a dark green ketch owned by Gary Samson, my friend and also my aggrieved dentist. (I don't floss and don't intend to. Worse still, I don't lie to Gary about it.) We motored out into Arichat Harbour and made sail, bound for Canso and the Stan Rogers Folk Festival.

In just three years, Stanfest has become almost a mandatory event in this end of Nova Scotia. To wring the best from the weekend, one should really go to Canso for three solid days armed with a deep thirst for music, a spirit bent on merriment, an iron constitution, and a tent, a camper or a boat. It is a long, tortuous drive from Isle Madame to Canso, but by sea it is just ten nautical miles, so a jolly flotilla sails across every year. It is the best possible way to go. The waves slap and gurgle, the wake hisses, the boat surges over the seas. The smudge on the horizon turns into a row of hills. Dots appear along the shore, and resolve themselves into dwellings, fish plants, churches, lighthouses. The buoys and ranges appear, and you pick your way through the headlands and islands into the heart of the town. We were tied up at the government wharf by 11:00.

Gary's wife Karen had come by car with another couple, and we walked up to the festival grounds together, the streets crowded with people, tents and campers scattered around the landscape like beach rocks. Stanfest is a big eclectic festival 45 performers and groups this year, appearing on four workshop stages as well as the main stage. The workshop stages are busy from 1:00 to 6:00 on the Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and every evening ten groups perform on the main stage. At the marina and the campground, after-parties rock on till sunrise.

The festival is well organized, from the downtown traffic control to the local kids with "Enviro-crew" on their T-shirts keeping the grounds tidy. The food is surprisingly good french fries and pop, of course, but also pizza, fajitas and salads. Despite the heat, kids were jumping furiously inside two inflatable castles. People were buying craft jewellry and tole-painted lobster buoys in a Crafters' Village. Young couples pushed strollers while toddlers chased one another across the hillsides. The festival is a family affair, both in terms of the crowd and of the Rogers family itself; Stan's son Nathan was among the entertainers, as was his widow, Ariel Rogers.

Marjorie and I wandered the grounds, sampling performances by vocal groups and satirical songwriters, fiddlers and African drummers, blues bands and country wailers. Big Bill Morganfield, The Irish Descendants, Katie Jackson, Allakomi, Bob Snider. We missed Valdy, Madagascar Slim, Barrachois, Bruce Guthro and The Ennis Sisters, but we caught the Appalachian group The Freight Hoppers, Sonja Wood, a country ensemble from BC called Ray Condo and His Ricochets, and Scruj McDuhk, a Celtic group from Manitoba.

Celtic music was well represented by familiar but always amazing players like Dave MacIsaac, Jennifer Roland and Dwayne Cote. But for me the high point of the afternoon was Richard Wood, already a legend and still not 20 years old. I had heard much about him, but I had never seen him live. He gave an electrifying performance that brought people to their feet with tears in their eyes.

We could stay only for the first four acts of the evening performance -- the Quigley Ensemble, Ted Longbottom, the astonishing J.P. Cormier, and a Cajun group from Louisiana named Balfa Toujours. We boarded the boat again at 9:30 and threaded our way out of the harbour under power, the lights of the village sparkling behind us in the twilight, the music of Cindy Church floating out across the flat water.

We motored into a windless evening of pink and violet on Chedabucto Bay, the distant hills and the off-lying fog banks deep mauve in the distance. Buoys and lighthouses flashed around us, red and green and white. The darkness grew upward from the water, draining colour from the world and rendering the seascape in stark contrasts of quicksilver and black. The diesel drummed comfortably for two hours, the boat heaving lazily, and then we were sweeping the water with a spotlight, picking out the unlit buoys of Arichat. A party at the boat club was just ending, and a committee of friends took our lines at the wharf.

There may be better ways to spend a day. When I hear of one, I'll let you know.

Silver Donald Cameron Author of "THE LIVING BEACH" (Macmillan Canada, 1998) * Winner of the Evelyn Richardson Award , and now in paperback