Shelter Valley Folk Festival began around a kitchen table in the fall of 2003, imagined by local songwriter and arts advocate Aengus Finnan. A dedicated group of friends and strangers (a lawyer, a social worker, an art therapist, a recent art college grad, a songwriter, an engineer, a newspaper reporter, a retired teacher, a high-school student, and a Fair Trade coffee-shop entrepreneur) gathered regularly to envision what a cultural community event centred on fantastic folk music might look like and entail.
Shelter Valley Folk Festival opened its gates Labour Day weekend 2004 and welcomed just over 200 volunteers and 700 attendees, most of whom had never been to a folk festival. It has endured through events such as Hurricane Ernesto in the early years, major power outages and gale force wind events in recent years.
The Festival organization has also grown over the years, incorporating as a registered Ontario Not-for-Profit in 2006, and graduating to full Federal Charitable Status in 2007 and has since expanded its year-round programming to provide Community Outreach through an "Artists in the Schools" program and Community Concert Series. In recent years the Festival has created "The Art Project" (surprising creations from surprising supporters for an annual silent auction), and holds a fundraising concert to provide the community and donors an exciting way to support the organization.
With each Festival the reputation and audience has grown but the organization has been mindful of the "quality over quantity" approach, keeping in mind how best to manage all changes and expansion. To date the planned limit for ticket sales remains, ensuring volunteers are able to provide an exceptional experience for all in attendance.
Named one of Canada's Top 10 Festivals by CBC Radio 3 as a part of a national listener poll, and described by the Toronto Star as "gentle, humanistic, environmentally attuned, and abundantly caring" the Festival has become a signature event drawing artists, audience, volunteers and sponsors from across the country.
In addition to acoustic concerts and workshops on a series of daytime stages and an evening Main Stage, the festival includes a juried Artists' Village (which showcases local potters, painters, photographers and one-of-a-kind crafts), culinary vendors (with healthy international and regional cuisine), wellness practitioners and sustainable living experts (providing interactive displays and engaging seminars and workshops) and a family and children's area complete with performers, interactive arts workshops, and a lovely children's parade.
There is also "rough" open field camping for tents and a limited number of small trailers, with a Family area designated "quiet after 11pm", while the music area has communal fire pits for festival goers who bring along acoustic instruments to join in the hosted "starlight song circles".
The Festival has enjoyed an "Early Bird" sell-out for many years beginning in May, and we urge you to secure your tickets early and prepare for a festival experience that will uplift you with its sights, sounds, and flavours.
We hope to see you Labour Day weekend.