I Miss my Edmonton Folk Music Festival

I’m better prepared to miss the Edmonton Folk Music Festival (EFMF) this year because of C-19 (covid), thanks to a previous scare.

I remember, what seems like a lifetime ago, that the EFMF had become so popular that tickets were selling out within minutes. This Festival was the highlight of my year. The thought of not attending shook me up. Although it was clearly a first world problem, the shake was emotionally threatening.

It caused me to pause and try to figure out why it was so important to me. After all, it was only 4 days long.

I recall the first year I volunteered, I helped to tear down the site. Bright and early Monday morning after the Festival, I was pulling fence stakes and bringing down tents. I had not seen “The Hill” without the Festival set dressings. Folding it up was like bulldozing Disneyland. Wow!

I had stopped volunteering after over a decade of helping. I wasn’t guaranteed an admission. The risk was very high I would not get tickets, due to the upsurge in the Festival’s popularity.

How could I replace all the benefits I received with something else?

I realized that the Festival was a magical place. Although it may have happened occasionally, I never saw police in uniform, fighting or drunkenness. True or not, the following story gives the feel of the Festival. In the beer garden, two young adults were having words and about to have a stand-off. Before security could arrive, several folkies stepped in and told these fellows that “we don’t do that here.” And that was that.

I have many firsthand experiences from every year that reinforce the magic of just being at the Festival. It was a weekend of calm, reflection, connection and joy – even when it rained.

Indoor concerts are enjoyable, and I attended a lot. Still, it didn’t provide the mental re-energizing that set me up for the next year. Why? What were the elements that worked for me?

It was outdoors. The blue sky, the ever-changing shadows and light from morning to night was a show unto itself. EFMF is a vast site. It can take 10 minutes or longer to walk from the easternmost stage to the west side. That gave me time to think. To reflect. I reviewed my life over the past year and thought about what I need to do differently to be more like the person I want to be.

There were 7 different stages, most having performances, simultaneously. Choices galore. I could drift off “to my happy place” if the music didn’t engage me sufficiently. I could do my mental work anytime and anywhere for those magical 4 days.

With this insight, I was able to recognize other opportunities that might not replace EFMF. Still, I could provide opportunities to support my mental health for the following year.

Oh, by the way, I was fortunate and never missed a festival. I also ended up with more mental health promotion opportunities for myself.

As older adults and seniors, I encourage you to think about when you are happiest. Now take those settings away. What else can you do to substitute the benefits you originally received to some degree?

My thanks to St. Albert Seniors Association: 780-459-0433 for making this Blog possible.

Glenn Walmsley