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Folk on the Rocks’ 40th anniversary has been postponed over fears of potential health risks during the global pandemic.

The music festival was set to be held July 17 to 19, and is one of the last coming events to stave off cancellation. Its planned line-up featured past festival favorites like Tegan and Sara, Joel Plaskett, and Fred Penner, among several newcomers and Northern artists.

The developing crisis, however, and the potential risks of large gatherings led the festival’s board to cancel the festival, according to a news release issued Wednesday.

For executive and artistic director Carly McFadden, it was “the most difficult decision we have ever had to make in my time with Folk On The Rocks,” leading to “several tears shed throughout the decision-making process.”

As it became clear current pandemic measures are likely to last into the summer, it ultimately became clear that holding the festival was untenable.

“It wasn’t anything tipping it over the edge so much as a culmination of evidence that it was highly unlikely we’d be able to go forth,” McFadden said.

Carly McFadden, executive director of Folk on the Rocks, sits at the festival in 2018. NNSL File photo

To rally for next year, the festival has already asked its line up of artists, many of whom have history with it, to return for the 2021 edition.

Most artists are keen to return once the pandemic clears, according to McFadden.

“There’s nothing solidified at this time, but things are looking really good,” she said. 

Ticket holders also have the opportunity to fill out a form, where they can either request a refund or donate their ticket to the festival. These forms are due by April 30.

Others looking to support the festival can purchase limited edition merchandise — including a T-shirt, a crewneck, a tote bag, and a baby onesie — and share memories and pictures of past years on social media, she said.

‘We want to make sure there’s something there for our audience’

The decision to postpone this year’s concerts followed months of preparation that saw organizers inviting past festival favorites to return and nearly completing main stage renovations.

Those renovations at least will be done this summer, leaving it “brand new and beautiful for the 2021 festival,” McFadden said.

By that time, she hopes next year’s festival will celebrate a return to normalcy and act as an escape from daily life for community members disappointed to miss this year’s festival.

In the meantime, she and other organizers are considering holding another event this fall.

“We’re hoping to do something that still lets us interact in some way with our community,” she said. “We’re really going to miss this summer and we want to make sure there’s something there for our audience.”

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Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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