Find Your Folk on Superior's North Shore
Imagine listening to lovely music at an intimate outdoor venue. To your left is Lake Superior and to your right is the rugged wilderness terrain of Northwest Ontario. A cool breeze blows off the lake and the aroma of barbeque and espresso occasionally wafts by your low-slung seat that is set up in front of the stage. Children play frisbee in the grass and long-lost friends smile as they greet one another.
This is a typical scene at Live From the Rock Folk Festival—a truly unique music festival in Red Rock, Ontario, a small Northern Ontario town on the north shore of Lake Superior about a short hour-and-a-half drive east of Thunder Bay.
The festival was started by a group of friends with a penchant for folk music in 2002 and continues to evolve. Artistic director Jennifer Ives says, “the festival has gathered together people from myriad geographical and socioeconomic communities into one big family of folks who plan their summer vacations around the event.”
Live From the Rock is held during the weekend after the August long-weekend. The music kicks off at 11 am on Friday morning and continues until Sunday evening. Campers start to arrive to claim their preferred locale when the campground opens at noon on Thursday.
For many, like Ives, the folk fest became a summer tradition after that inaugural year.
“I've watched babes in arms grow into energetic young adults who look forward to spending the weekend listening to and playing music, hanging out with festival friends, and even taking time to indulge the old fogies," said Ives.
"I have seen fledgling campfire performers develop into talented and exciting musicians and enjoyed the musical talents of well over 1,000 performers—Canadian and international," she adds noting the fesitval atmosphete where people "share the magic of the aurora borealis rippling over the sweet smell of woodsmoke and oranges at the midnight campfire and cry at the loss of festival friends.”
Lynn Copeland who has attended the festival with her family every year points out it was such as easy place to spend time with young kids. "It is safe, there was lots to do, and the setting is beautiful,” she says.
Her daughters, now ages 16 and 19, have fond memories of the festival. “After a few years, it became something the kids looked forward to—they would have been disappointed had we missed a year.”
There are definitely plenty of activities to entertain young children, including a family tent with crafts, face painting, a splash pad and playground, and oodles of time to swim in Lake Superior (it’s fairly shallow and ranges from warm to refreshing, depending on the summer). Kids can play games in the park that is just big enough to accommodate the festival and campground, yet small enough that it doesn’t take long to track down wandering children.
This year, Ives says she is most looking forward to the workshops—informal concerts at which musicians share stories, jam, and are challenged to put on a show under a pre-determined theme.
“Many hours are spent in the solitude of my cozy library debating with myself about which musicians/groups would challenge and surprise each other and/or intertwine effortlessly when thrown together on a stage in the middle of nowhere,” she says. For example, the “Is My Genre Slipping?” workshop will put a country musician, opera singer, flamenco guitarist, a couple of blues guys, and a singer-songwriter on stage together.
Live From the Rock is a one-of-a-kind festival with a welcoming, small-town vibe. Typically, attendance hovers around 2,500—just the right amount for the size of the venue and number of people who keep this entirely volunteer-run festival going. In fact, Ives says they could use some extra help this year, so if you need some extra motivation, consider lending a hand. Once you’ve experience this festival, you’ll understand why so many have made it a summer tradition and likely start your own.
Live From the Rock Folk Festival takes place in Red Rock, Ontario from August 11-13. For more information, including volunteer opportunities, visit livefromtherockfolkfestival.com or find them on Facebook.