The South Country Fair in the Fort Macleod Fish and Games Park is a escape from reality for a lot of Lethbridgians who gather to visit with friends and listen to music. Most of the local music community hit the road for the fair and Lethbridge’s two main music venues, the Slice and Owl Acoustic Lounge, close during the fair so their staff and regulars can attend.
“It’s a step away from the everyday. Folks come to not only experience and enjoy artistic performances, but to become a part of the amazing pop-up community. It is full of spirit and is many peoples annual fill up of positive vibes and human kindness,” wrote artistic director Jana MacKenzie, who has booked another exceptional south stage for the weekend.
There are a lot of familiar faces performing this year including local talent like Shaela Miller and John Wort Hannam.
“It’s always been part of our mandate to not only bring in new performers to the area but to provide opportunities for local performers to share their craft. Shaela Miller, who has performed on the east stage, will be performing on Friday night on the main stage,” MacKenzie noted, adding she is excited to welcome former Lethbridge musician Andrew Scott to the fair this year for a ukulele workshop.
“There are several opportunities this year for our audience members to learn something new and participate in creating music. We have a ukulele workshop led by Andrew Scott on Sunday at noon. He’s bringing 20 ukuleles and will be helping folks learn how to play. We also have The Vaudevillian conducting a washboard workshop on Saturday at noon. They’ll also be bringing some washboards for folks to play around on. The one I am most excited about though, is the adult choir, led by Carolyn Mark and Hank Pine. Songs have already been released and a Facebook group created. There will be two practices (one Friday, one Saturday) both at 4 p.m. Then a performance on Main Stage on Sunday,” she added.
Returning performers include Carolyn Mark, Geoff Berner and Kris Demeanor, Oh Susanna, who performs at 7:45 p.m., July 21 and Toronto-based African inspired blues musician Ndidi Onukwulu who closes the south stage at 4:45 p.m. on July 22. She will also be performing the Pros and Cons of collaboration workshop with Shaela Miller and Carolyn Mark, at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, July 21. John Wort Hannam returns to play a solo set at 3 p.m., July 21 and will host the Sunday Church of the Long Grass with the folk/rock duo the Dimpker Brothers and 1920s-style ragtime trio the Vaudevillian who also perform at 9:30 p.m., July 21.
Victoria duo Hank Pine and Lily Fawn return to the fair this year to perform throughout the weekend. Lily Fawn will be performing a workshop with Geoff Berner and the Lemon Bucket Orkestra at 6:30 p.m. on July 20. Hank and Lily will perform Saturday night at 11:20 p.m. and Pine will be taking part in a workshop with Kris Demeanor on the east Stage, July 21.
Geoff Berner, Carolyn Mark and Kris Demeanor will be playing a Saturday night set at 6 p.m., July 21.
As usual, there will be some world music with the Lemon Bucket Orkestra headlining July 20 at 12:30 p.m. and Spanish Flamenco group Fin Del Fiesta Flamenco.
“We’re excited to tour Alberta. It will be the first time we’ve toured outside of Ontario and B.C.,” said Fin De Fiesta Flamenco artistic director Lia Grainger, who brings the group, including members from Canada, Spain, France and Cuba featuring Seville-born guitarist Dennis Duffin and singer Alejandro Mendia, who is from Bordeaux, France.
Recently they added Havana-raised, Montreal-based percussionist Hanser Santos Gomez, Vancouver-born, Seville, Spain-based flautist Lara Wong and for this tour, India-born, Vancouver-based guest dancer Deborah “La Carmelita.”
They are also performing at Casa July 25.
“The South Country Fair show will be more rumba with more of a kicking style and more of a party,” she said, adding indoor shows like Casa are a more intimate experience than outdoor festivals, of which they will be performing several this year.
“Outdoor festivals are a lot of fun,” she said.
She is also excited to be able to performed with percussionist Hanser Santos Gomez.
“We’re so excited to have him as part of the group. He has an incredible style,” she enthused.
MacKenzie is excited they applied to the festival this year.
“They submitted. We’re pretty excited about it,” MacKenzie wrote. They will be on the south stage at 1:30 p.m., Sunday, June 22.
There is also poetry at the Lotusland poetry tents as well as slam poetry on the south stage.
“The Lotusland poetry tent will still run in the evenings from 7-10 p.m. We always invite a couple of the spoken-word artists to perform on the main stage in between the musical acts, but this year they are doing it slam style! The artistic director of Lotusland, Jake DePeuter, thought of the idea to have three poets do one poem each rather than one poet doing 2-3 poems,” MacKenzie noted. Kennedi O’Brien, Roylin Picou, and Johnny Macrae are performing on the south stage at 8 p.m., July 20.
“We don’t change too much, aside from always bringing in new acts. Our organizational structure is pretty consistent. We will be crowning a new mayor this year. Surprise! Current mayor Washboard Hank will be on hand to pass the torch to the newly selected individual,” she continued.
There will also be performers who have played the Slice and Owl Acoustic Lounge over the past year including Boots and the Hoots, The Wine Soaked Preachers, Richard Inman, Red Hot hayseeds, Kacy and Cayton and Amy Nelson.
There will also be entertainment for the kids, including Kiki the Eco Elf.
“Kiki the Eco Elf is an exciting addition. This kids performer will not only be at the Kids Kountry, but will also be performing on the main stage and is bringing a giant inflatable salmon where she will invite big and little kids in to hear stories and songs,” MacKenzie observed, adding over the close to 20 years she has been involved with the fair, she has noticed more kids attending the fair.
“There is definitely more kids on site. The young people now have kids and those kids are growing up to become volunteers. Pretty neat to watch,” she observed, adding there have been some pretty unique events at the fair.
“My very first year booking main stage I made an error in the timing of the program. There was an hour gap in programming and so I had to quickly fill the spot. The gracious Mark Sadlier Brown took to the stage and rescued the show. As I walked off the stage, after feeling quite stressed about the whole thing, I saw some Hutterite women (there to drop off buns for our hospitality) dancing in front of the stage. It was pretty great to see that no one really noticed the blip.”
Other acts include Aiden Tentrees and Patrick Hamilton a.k.a. Whitehorse duo Soda Pony, East Vancouver swing band the Yardbird Sweethearts, Edmonton hip hop band Boosh and the Dip who headline at 12:45, Saturday night, blues/soul/gospel band the Wooden Horsemen, Indigo Joseph’s Etienne Fletcher, who performs Friday, Blues and roots musician Christie Rose and many more.
The South Country Fair runs July 20-22 in the Fort Macleod Fish and Game Park.
Ticket prices are $30-$100, $100 advance weekend pass, $90 for seniors; Friday night $50; Saturday all day $60, $30 afternoon; Sunday $30.
The schedule is available at http://southcountryfair.com/.