A weekend of food, drink and culture is set to take over Saskatoon as Folkfest prepares for its latest edition.
Running from Thursday to Saturday, Folkfest returns for its 39th year as a staple in the city.
Terri Rau has been executive director for the past 21 years.
As the cultural festival looks for ways to stay fresh and keep its patrons engaged, Rau has learned that after 21 years, Folkfest doesn’t need an overhaul.
“I find that just fine tuning really works,” she said. “What can we do better or what can we let go of that’s not really serving the public very well.”
“We also focus on youth retention a lot because we’re getting older after 39 years.”
21 also happens to be the number of pavilions entered for 2018, including three Folkfest first-timers — Cameroon, Japan and Sri Lanka.
A few pavilions have taken some time in recent years to give volunteers a reprieve from the endless work that entails hosting Saskatoon for three days.
“We have over 5,000 volunteers and these people are putting on this huge showcase of culture — and they have full-time jobs,” Rau said. “So they’re doing it in addition to their regular lives. My hats go off to them. Without them, there is no festival.”
What’s old is new again
After the special Canada 150 celebrations brought 17 of the 21 pavilions to Prairieland Park in 2017, Folkfest is returning to its old format that sees pavilions scattered across the city.
“We don’t tell the members where to have their venues, many (pavilion managers) said they wanted to be indoors,” Rau said of the change.
“A lot of people kind of said ‘we kind of like driving around or getting on the bus and going place-to-place.”
That means your favourites like the Greek, Scottish and Ukrainian Karpaty pavilions will still be at Praireland Park.
Folkfest passport holders are eligible to ride for free on Saskatoon Transit buses.
Thursday and Friday, riders get free transportation from 3:50 p.m. to midnight, and Saturday from 2:15 p.m. to midnight.
Bus routes are printed in the Folkfest passport.
While Folkfest is inching closer to the 40-year milestone, patrons should be prepared for a little extra participation than in years past.
“This year, the theme is ‘Join the fun,'” Rau said. “So we want people to be active, we don’t want them to be spectators.”