The Central Music Festival is no Edmonton folk fest — and organizer Mike Bradford wants to capitalize on all the positive reasons why.
The third annual local music event, which is expected to attract 500 to 1,000 people a day to a natural amphitheatre north of Red Deer on Aug. 14 and 15, is not overcrowded: Parents can easily keep an eye on their kids.
And there are no long lineups to washrooms or food booths — just hours and hours of great, toe-tapping, sometimes dance-inducing entertainment.
Bradford said “People told us last year they were there for the total experience” — sitting outside with family and friends, listening to good music in a no-stress, no-hassle environment. “They liked having fun, talking in the real culture and just enjoying the weekend.”
While Bradford admits he’d love to have the budget of the Edmonton or Calgary Folk Festivals, his non-profit music festival simply doesn’t.
“So we looked at our financial situation, listened to what (festival-goers) told us, and decided this year to focus on local and regional talent.”
The result is a 2009 lineup that highlights Western musicians.
There are still some big names, such as country singer Dick Damron, who closes Saturday’s concert lineup, and Edmonton’s jazzy Amos Garrett Trio, playing Friday. But most of the entertainers are of the lesser-known but highly accomplished variety.
There’s national talent, such as the Yukon’s Gordie Tentrees and Vancouver roots singer Ndidi Onukwulu. Also from the city by the sea are one-man digeridoo/guitar/drum player Shane Philip and flamenco band De La Terra.
The international entertainers include Mongolian musicians Altai-Khangai and the Northern Lights, as well as Honeyboy Edwards, a 94-year-old Mississippi bluesman and contemporary of the legendary Robert Johnson.
Among the Alberta musicians are Cajun singer Crystal Plamondon, Innisfail native and now Calgarian Steve Coffey (and The Lokels), Edmonton jazz singer Thea Neumann, and a six-piece African band called Karamoko Kouyate from Calgary.
There are also plenty of names from Red Deer’s thriving music scene: Donna Durand, Curtis Phagoo, Lisa Heinrichs, and the band Oldbury, which won a local talent contest to open Saturday’s lineup.
Bradford believes he’s achieved a premium mix of folk, country, rock, jazz, blues, and world music. “Every act is world class.
“They might not be on the Top 40 charts, but we’ve got the best local, regional, national and international entertainers we could find.” The complete list of festival musicians is available on www.centralmusicfest.com
This year’s festival will be held on the same picturesque property where it originated, just north of Red Deer and off the C&E Trail.
But Bradford is already gearing up to improve on last year’s setup. For instance, festival hours are extended, from 5 to 11:30 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Saturday. Bradford also intends to relocate the vendor area to ensure people browsing through artisan booths will always have a view of the stage.
More than a dozen food booths are again expected to set up for business, and a children’s arts and crafts area will include entertainment from magician Trent Tinney and yo-yo master Yudai Iga.
Bradford said ticket prices were reduced this year to make the festival more affordable for families. A two-day adult pass is $55 ($45 for student/seniors). A one-day festival pass is $40 for any age (kids 12 and under are always free when accompanied by a paying adult) from Black Knight Ticket Centre or Valhalla Pure Outfitters.
Considering that several people from Edmonton and Calgary discovered Central Music Festival last year and vowed to return, he hopes more Central Albertans will take advantage of a gem of a music event that’s close to home. “It’s a great way to get out and have some fun and experience a lot of things without spending a lot of money.”