Canterbury Folk Festival to finish after 20th year

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The Canterbury Folk Festival will be calling it quits after celebrating its 20th year this July.

The popular Ingersoll festival has continued to grow every year but, with many of the volunteer board members having helped to organize the annual event since the beginning, they’ve decided to wrap things up.

Ted Comiskey, the festival’s artistic director, said they’d hoped an influx of new board members would join and continue the festival, but they’ve been unable to find the right fit for the event.

“It’s a lot of work to put on a show of that size and consistently do it over that period of time,” Comiskey, the town’s mayor, said. “It’s not quite burnout time, but you want to do the best and we looked for people to take over for us to keep going, but it was difficult to find those individuals to take it on as an act of love and not as a job or an income.”

He noted the festival has never had financial issues – it costs about $90,000 annually to run the free event – but new blood was needed to keep up with the year-round planning


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While volunteers were never a concern, the logistical side of the festival only grew as the festival expanded.

“We’ve had great volunteers. It was never an issue. They’ve been superb with helping us out. It’s more the organization aspect with it going on throughout the year with contracts, rentals and much more,” Comiskey said. “There’s so much that needs to be done. There’s always a large job before the festival happens. All the directors have worked hard and they’ve all enjoyed it.”

The festival began in 1999 after Comiskey and five others in the Francis Street band had performed at London’s annual Home County Folk Festival.

When they got back to Ingersoll and continued playing on one of the band member’s back decks, they all wondered why they couldn’t do something similar in Ingersoll.

What began as an idea to run for only five years saw them continue for two decades.

“We’re in our 20th year of a five-year plan,” Comiskey joked. “It’s only expanded.

“It’s people who enjoy running a folk festival, enjoying the music, enjoying the people, keeping it fun and our mission’s always been to keep it free.”

Since its early beginnings, the festival has expanded to include 25 vendors and more than 30 musicians last year.

Comiskey said recent years have seen about 20,000 people attend throughout the three days that also had food, crafts, a beer tent, raffles and workshops, as well as children’s dance and open stages to complement the main stage.


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The festival also had the group Transition to Less Waste help reduce the garbage produced, which kept about 99 per cent of the waste out of landfills. The festival also featured reusable materials and volunteers who showed people what could be recycled or composted.

By the end of last year’s event, about one-tenth of a garbage bag had been filled from the entire weekend.

The 20th year will be one final celebration, with the music going for four days instead of the usual three. The performers for the coming festival will be announced in the next few weeks on Canterbury’s Facebook page and website.

“We’re going to go out with a positive note with everybody happy and excited,” Comiskey said.

Though the end of the folk festival is near, Comiskey said he hopes  – and it wouldn’t surprise him – to see something else take its place in the coming years.

“I’m sure something else will come up. Ingersoll’s so vibrant and exciting. There’ll be a time when someone wants to take advantage of doing something exciting,” said Comiskey, who thanked the community for its ongoing support. “The memories will linger on for a few years until something else takes over. We’re very happy with where it is and we’re happy we were able to do what we did.

“It’s been a great rush and it’s been fun to put it on for Ingersoll. I hope they (people) think it’s been something special and to know it can be done and maybe it’ll trigger someone else to also do it. We’d all support them 100 per cent.”

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