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Stanfest 2019

For the first time in 20 years, the Stan Rogers Folk Festival is announcing a change in artistic leadership.

The team is broadening and long-time Artistic Director Troy Greencorn is shifting to the role of producer. Taking the creative reins: his son and festival staffer, Chris Greencorn.

“Nobody is better suited for the job,” Troy says. “Chris has grown up with this event and knows it from the inside out.”

The younger Greencorn has worked with Stanfest since 2014. For the 10 years prior to that, Chris pitched in with many of the festival’s volunteer crews. “I’ve been at this as long as I’ve been able to carry wire ties,” he jokes, referring to the fasteners used to erect kilometres of orange snow fence around the festival site.

I had the chance to chat with Chris about this year’s festival and more.

1. This is the 23rd year of Stanfest. Tell me a bit about what it takes to have a successful festival every year?

The short answer is that we have a very committed group of volunteers and attendees who return every (or nearly every) year and wouldn’t give it up for the world. Even though it’s a bit of a cliché, community support, from both the volunteer and the patron perspectives, is what sustains an event like this so long.
2. How do you go about choosing your artists/bands each year?
We start booking in the fall and continue through the the winter and early spring. We do take submissions (the form on our website will open again in the fall) but we also attend a few industry events over that time – trade shows like Folk Alliance International, Folk Music Ontario, and the East Coast Music Awards – where we see and meet with literally hundreds of artists and groups. Festivals are all about live performance, so we have a sort of unwritten policy where we rarely book an act without seeing them live first. This is essential especially at Stanfest because we often program artists 3-4 times over the weekend in a variety of settings.
Since we’ve always billed ourself as a songwriters’ festival, we also seek out artists who are exceptional at that specific craft, even if they aren’t strictly “folk” musicians. That being said, our interpretation of the folk music genre is pretty broad. I like to bring up something Big Bill Broonzy is supposed to have said when people start policing genre boundaries: “I guess all songs is folk songs. I never heard no horse sing ’em.”
3. Canso is a very small town (I’m from Charlos Cove), where do all 450 volunteers come from and how that helps the festival?
Half or more come from the immediate area, and many are directly involved in the lead up to the event – helping to assemble the festival site, distributing our promotional materials… the list goes on and on. But plenty of others come as attendees for the weekend and volunteer while they’re here. This offsets some of their costs, but perhaps more importantly, builds that emotional connection that so many people leave Canso and Stanfest with.
4. I saw that Big Spruce is making “Stanfest Beer”, Can you tell me a little about that?
Yeah, definitely. Big Spruce Brewing from Nyanza, CB has partnered with us for the first time ever this year, as part of a push towards all-Nova Scotian beverage sponsors. Big Spruce’s ethos matches up with ours very well – a family operation in a rural location but with a dedicated and growing fan base that loves their product(s). If I had an business degree I might call that “synergy.” In any case, they came on board in a big way this year. Because we’ve always been sponsored by more conventional beer suppliers, Big Spruce agreed to develop an easy-drinking light beer for us, to replace the various American and Canadian lagers/ales that have been available here for years. And we’re super happy with the result: it’s the kind of beer that pairs equally well with a hot summer day by the lake or a cool summer night around a campfire.
5. Can you tell me about some of this years plans and performers?
This year’s festival is structured in very much the same way as festivals past, but regulars will notice a definite shift in the artists performing. At the top of the bill we have Jeremy Dutcher, Donovan Woods and The Opposition, and Suzanne Vega, but there are also 30 or so more artists who perform over the course of the weekend (all of which can be found at stanfest.com/artists). Among those there are plenty of new faces. Although I’m pretty liberal with how I interpret “folk music”, I think our existing audience will appreciate the vibrancy and diversity of this year’s line-up. For folks who’ve never come, it’ll be great year to experience Stanfest. We’ve always been privileged to showcase lots of emerging artists, and this year is especially strong in that respect.
6. Is there anything you would like to add or share with us.
Yeah, for sure. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online (stanfest.com), over the phone (1 888 554 7826), or at the gate, although camping passes are going fast so don’t delay if you’re considering staying onsite for the weekend (we are a camping festival!). If you don’t have camping gear, or the thought of camping potentially for the first time is intimidating, for the past two years we’ve offered outfitted sites with a number of group activities (hikes, bikes, paddles) over the weekend through our partners A for Adventure. If that sounds like the thing for you, call our box office (1 888 554 7826) for more information!