Category Archives: Travel

Folkie FAQ

Where did July go? I swear it was just yesterday Twila and I were on the road headed to Orillia. The folkover (a.k.a. Folk + hangover) hasn’t been too bad since arriving back in Edmonton. I almost made it out to Canmore Folk Fest this past weekend but I just missed it. I was actually checking out #UncleJohn at the Banff Summer Arts Festival instead so I took a folkie weekend off to hang with my friends from the Opera Chorus.

I thought I would address from Frequency Asked Questions I’ve been getting from my friends coming back in case anybody else is interested:

Aren’t you and Twila sick of each other?

After a month of travel and almost 10,000 km on the road, you probably have to ask Twila to get a balanced perspective. However, after living in such close proximity for a long time you start to recognize each others cycles pretty well. You know when to say something and when to hold off. Sure, there are moments of cabin fever rounding hour 30 in a vehicle, but you realize it’s not really the other person that’s making you antsy but the overall travel fatigue. We also have a lot of alone time once we get at the festival since Twila is off session hopping and taking photos and I’m usually in the media tent doing interview research, transcribing, or writing if I’m not watching sessions.

How bad did you miss your bed and/or pillow?

Strangely enough, while there were moments where I did miss home, it wasn’t for my mattress. I seemed to adapt quickly enough to make a temporary home wherever I was. Plus, I am a travel narcoleptic and I can sleep anywhere pretty much instantaneously. It also helped that in Vancouver and Calgary I was staying with good friends that I don’t often see so it was a reunion time! I find that familiar people make a place feel at home since it was easy enough to find replacements for other voids like a good coffee place etc.

What did you eat?!?!

It means a great deal to me that my friends were concerned with how I satiated my voracious appetite. Firstly, I had to adapt from my structured three meals a day routine since Twila doesn’t eat full meals. She successfully subsists off a diet of black coffee, rice crackers, fruit, veggies, pepperoni sticks, boiled eggs, and chips. There were no sit-down meals during any of our travel days. For the most part, I just ate crackers, fruit, cereal, granola bars, chips, and candy. In the mornings, I would get hot water from the first pit stop to make oatmeal or use hot water to make instant noodles in the evenings. It was handy to have a utensil set that included a pair of chopsticks. When arriving in a city, we would both hit up the grocery store to replenish food stores for the rest of the festival. However, once I was at the festivals, I just ate at food trucks. Since the food is pretty well-curated and local, the eats were pretty good. Every festival had a wood-fire pizzeria option, there would often be some kind of Asian Thai food option, donairs/pitas/tacos were standard fare; however, there would be great opportunities to eat at the tasty local food truck options. A few stand-outs were the steamed white bun pulled pork and ginger beef tacos from Taiko Taco at Calgary Folk Fest, the sweet and spicy chicken karage from Mogu in Vancouver Folk Fest, the kale and quinoa salads and pulled pork from the Men with Knives food truck at Mariposa Folk Fest, and there was a tie between the chana masala from East India Company and the empanadas and watermelon/mint/feta salad at Corrientes at Winnipeg Folk Fest.

Perhaps there are more questions people are curious about? If so, they can ask me on Gallagher Hill at Edmonton Folk Fest or ask in the comments below and I will update this post with new answers.

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Not On the Road Again

This is our ‘down’ weekend. The Edmonton Folk Fest isn’t until next weekend, so this is the first Saturday in a month that I haven’t woken up rather early and hauled a blue tarp and bag of evening clothing to a main stage before settling in at a side stage with my earplugs in, sunscreen (and/or raincoat) on and camera fully charged -I don’t know what to do with myself.

The driving portion of our project wrapped up this past Monday morning when we rolled into Edmonton minutes after CBC R2 morning shifted over to Tempo. According to the odometer we had traveled 9,974 km since setting off to Mariposa on July 2nd, but it sure felt like it was further. Our journey out to Ontario followed by B.C. seems a bit like a dream and I can honestly say that I met some really interesting and friendly characters along the way.

Each city has its own flavour and that is reflected in the folk festivals as well. In Vancouver the passion for music, community and life in general was palpable. As we camped out on the shores of English Bay people were not only interested in the music on stage, but chatted with those around them. Fast forward a week and the same could be said of the Calgarians packed onto Prince’s Island, but in Calgary there was a distinct Alberta-ness (the exact nature of which I can’t quite describe, I mean there was probably as much, if not more, country music programmed at the Winnipeg Folk Fest than in Calgary so it wasn’t like there was a run on cowboy boots or hats that made Calgary seem very Albertan).

Although the road trip is over, and I might have neared music saturation with over 16 days worth of live music. I am excited for the EFMF 2014. Excited to see my hometown festival through the filter of the four proceeding festivals, to see some of the artists that I caught at earlier festivals again, to have the emcees shout ‘Edmonton’ rather than one of the other cities, to discover new music which has to last me until the next festival season but most of all to sit on the hill with my family and friends watching the sun set on the Edmonton skyline while all around us lights up with thousands of tiny candles. It’s an indescribable moment.

I’ll see you on the hill.

Reunited with Winnipeg Folk Festival

There is nothing like the feeling of being united with an old friend. That’s what it was like as Twila and I rolled into Manitoba from North Dakota on Monday. The shimmering golden canola in the hot prairie sun was a welcome accompaniment as we drove towards Winnipeg. Out first course of action was to get some espresso at Lil Sister Coffee and to check out the locally made print t-shirts at Sew Dandee on Osborne Street. We stocked up on provisions and had our last hot shower before driving to Birds Hill Provincial Park. We set up camp and are ready for the upcoming week.

Thanks for the Good Times Mariposa Folk Festival

As the sun sets on the Mariposa Folk Festival, I wonder where the three days have gone. Just the other day I was setting up camp with Twila next to grassy patch near a baseball diamond in Tudhope Park. I knew the festival culture was upon us when I could hear the quiet strumming of a few acoustic guitars at the campsite. A baby on a tarp playing with an array of plastic toys as his mother arranged the coolers and a metallic thud came from his father hammering in the tent pegs to secure their family sized tent. This site would be our temporary home for the weekend.

Lining up at the festival gate to get into the grounds for Mainstage, the sensation that was immediately prevalent was this sense of calm.

“What is going on?!” Twila asks me in disbelief.

There was no frenzied 7 AM color lottery to set up a tarp, no snaking lines out into the parking lot, just smiles from the festival volunteers and courteous patrons. A mini utopia created for a few days with great music, friendly people, sunshine, and a festival site bordered by the lake. There were also many activities for families with children. It was lovely to see children running around in their barefeet with woven wreaths in their hair, wading into the shallow waters of the lake to cool off, and and peeling off corkscrew segments of a Tornado Potato.

I felt calm in this idyllic atmosphere. I would often set up my chair under the shaded canopy of trees to work on my iPad while enjoying the breeze from the lake and the musical tinkering from children at the musical petting zoo. Every volunteer I met was so friendly, whether they were helping to sort through my compostable trash or find me areas with charging stations for my electronics. It felt like I could do no wrong as a guest. Not once was I told to vacate an area I shouldn’t be in or have my ID and bag checked at security. I was even allowed in the backstage performer area to work on my laptop because I was sporting a golden ticket wristband. It gives me a glimpse into a classless society and how it works when its community is united in this vision. All the staff, volunteers, vendors, artists, audience members – they’re all working together to produce something greater than themselves: a safe haven for music and people. Mitch Podoluk mentioned that Mariposa is his hometown festival and I can see why.

I really shouldn’t have been surprised at how quickly Twila and I were accepted into this community. All we brought with us on our 2.5 day commute was an open mind and memories of how other folk festivals function. My folk festival crowd survival instinct was subdued and attending Mariposa felt more like a vacation than anything else. There is a chill energy that comes from rolling out of a tent, successfully washing ones hair from a water bottle, grabbing a breakfast frittata from a foodtruck, and sauntering over to a workshop stage by 11 AM. I’m glad Mariposa has been able to return home to Orillia after being hosted at other locations throughout Ontario. Orillia has something really special and I’m glad I got to be a part of its world for the past few days.

The Call of Home

Emerging from a over 35 hours of car travel and a few hours of overnight rest at two motels along the way, the process gave me a lot of time to think before arriving at my destination. The longest Twila and I stopped was to pump gas, eat some quick snacks while waiting for our gas tank to fill, and switch roles between driver and passenger.

The open road has a mystical quality about it. After enough hours driving through a stretch of National forest in Michigan or the straight highways of North Dakota that cut through the prairie landscape, I was lulled into a travel trance. You’re aware enough to acknowledge your surroundings but feel hazy passing through a constant stream of small towns.

I open wide the road atlas and peruse the intricate arterial a system of roads that connect all these communities. It’s amazing how I am able to access them just by driving far away from my front door. While I am living in my sphere of existence back in Edmonton, there are all these pockets of communities doing the exact same thing. It is something we are aware of but I was reminded of it these past few days. It gives one a real sense of freedom.

However, there are jolts back to reality when there are reminders from a world back at home that continues even while you are gone. No matter far how far one travels, the homeland does not relinquish its grip. I had such a reminder last night. Upon arriving back into Canada and connected back with cellular reception on my phone. I noticed a missed call from my sister. I returned the call. She informs me that our almost 20 year old cat, Milo, had passed away.

Their grief was palpable to me over the phone line. I did not expect my home life to become more vivid as I drove further away. Milo was the guardian of our house and garden. As I soak up the amazing music and atmosphere here at Mariposa, I remember those who are still at home, and my feline friend who has enjoyed many wonderful years with us.20140705-202839-73719408.jpg

Mariposa…sounds familiar.

So after hatching this crazy plan nearly a year ago, I find myself amid piles of clothing and camping supplies wondering what to expect from Mariposa, destination number one. The furthest distance to travel from Edmonton on this adventure, Mariposa has taken on a bit of a mystical quality for me, even though I can count the things I know about it on one hand (without using my thumb):

  1. Orillia, ON.
  2. Mariposa is the name of the town in Stephen Leacock‘s Sunshine Sketches of a Little TownReading material & bug spray.
  3. Gordon Lightfoot‘s hometown is Orillia (does that mean that Early Morning Rain is about Orillia? anybody?)
  4. Stringband never played Mariposa.

All and all, not a particularly illustrious base of knowledge, but hey, everyone has to start somewhere.

Digging further than my personal cache of information, I found out the Grande Dame of Canada’s Folk Fest’s line-up will be anchored by women of influence in both culture and music. But more than just the great music that will be infusing the air at Mariposa, what makes this festival so enticing for performers and audience members alike?

Mariposa’s image has a bit of an underlying edge of education. We all like to understand what’s going on in general, and in music it’s no different. The Hand’s On Experiences area promises interactive workshops of drum circles, singing, crafting, dance and more. In addition to the Hand’s On Experiences is the Ukulele-Building Workshops on Saturday and Sunday morning. Mariposa U, run in conjunction with the festival and Lakehead University but taking place in downtown Orillia before the gates open on Friday, offers interactive workshops with festival performers and other professional musicians. Attendees are warned that “All workshops are interactive, instructional and, most of all, participatory: come to work and learn, not to be entertained!”

Then there are archives to visit, yoga or tai chi in the morning. And of course the music. Mariposa is known to boast an eclectic array of talent, and this year is no different. Some favourites of mine from past folk fests are going to be at Mariposa so I will have to fit my visits to the Hand’s On Experiences area and Ukulele-Building Workshops around them, but a little careful planning and I should be able to get to everything.

Mariposa promises to be an unforgettable experience, and I hope that it will never lose that mystical quality that invades my anticipation for it…if you need me I’ll be building a ukulele.

Looking forward to hearing, among others, these three acts:

The JD Edwards Band

Dala

The Barr Brothers