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2024 Western Canada Bluegrass Fests including Blueberry Music Festival

Donald Teplyske  |  April 16, 2024

Western Canada has had an active bluegrass scene for many years. The first Blueberry Bluegrass went in 1985, and since then the activity—both localized jamming and performance as well as larger summer fests—has only grown in intensity.

The Blueberry Bluegrass and Country Music Society, based in Stony Plain, Alberta, hosts an annual event—the Blueberry Music Festival. It's a celebration of bluegrass and roots music taking place over the Alberta August Long Weekend, featuring performances by regional, Canadian, and international artists. Blueberry includes live performances, free instrument and vocal workshops, jam sessions, a late-night old-time dance, and opportunities for musicians and fans to come together and enjoy music in a vibrant community atmosphere.

Disclaimer:Blueberry is my 'hometown' festival. For part of my childhood, I lived in the nearby rural area; had we stayed on the farm, Stony Plain is where I would have attended high school. It is a wonderful community, and I always feel at home at the festival. I am proud to have volunteered at Blueberry for a number of years, although not as long as many of the great people associated with the festival.

This year's Blueberry Music Festival occurs August 2-4 and features—as always—a strong musical lineup. All artists are treated as 'headliners' and most perform more than once over the weekend.

Blueberry is proud to welcome for the first time the Appalachian Road Show, Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Jackson Hollow, Crying Uncle Bluegrass Band, The Tone Rangers, Jarrid Lee, and Ben Sures.

Returning favorites include John Reischman & the Jaybirds, The Spinney Brothers, Jessie & the Gents, Russell deCarle, Foghorn Stringband, Passin' Through, and the Lost Prospectors.

John McEuen, co-founder of the legendary Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, previously played the festival in 1997, but this year returns for the first time with his Circle Band honoring the classic 1972 "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" recording. It is going to be an incredible weekend of music on three stages, including two indoor.

Stony Plain, located just west of Edmonton, is known for its strong connection to bluegrass music having hosted the event since the early 1990s; earlier editions of Blueberry occurred nearby. The festival not only showcases established artists but also provides a platform for up-and-coming talent to perform their music for an enthusiastic audience. Internationally recognized as the IBMA's Bluegrass Event of the year twice—in 2019 and 2021, and one of only two events to be twice such honored—Blueberry is an extremely well-organized event that places the spotlight exactly where it should be: on the music and on the audience.

The Blueberry Music Festival is not just about the bluegrass and other acoustic music; it's also about fostering a sense of community. Many attendees camp onsite, creating a festive atmosphere where people can connect with fellow music lovers, share stories, and enjoy the sites and attractions of Stony Plain. Whether camping, staying in a nearby motel, or traveling to the fest from home daily, everyone who attends Blueberry will appreciate the tireless work of a team of volunteers who come together annually to make this the premier bluegrass event in Western Canada, if not across the country.

The festival typically attracts both local residents and visitors from other parts of Alberta, Western Canada, and the northwestern United States, drawing people who share a passion for bluegrass, country, and roots music. With multiple stages running concurrently as well as terrific facilities and sound production, Blueberry Music Festival has become a destination for people looking for something more intimate than the large, multi-day American bluegrass festivals, as well as the area folk festivals. Blueberry a fun-filled event that celebrates the rich musical heritage of the region while also looking toward the future of timeless music.

Visit BlueberryBluegrass.com and take advantage of early bird pricing until the beginning of June.

Western Canada is home to a number of other bluegrass festivals.

Out west on Vancouver Island is the Cowichan Bluegrass Festival, June 14-16 at Lake Cowichan, British Columbia. Headlining this three-day fest are the award-winning Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper and Missy Raines & Allegheny, as well as Caleb Klauder & Reeb Wilms and Crying Uncle Bluegrass Band as well many additional B.C. artists appearing.

Cowichan Bluegrass is a 'camping' festival but hotels are available locally and in nearby Duncan. Plan ahead.

Haines Junction, Yukon Territory has for two decades hosted the Kluane Bluegrass Festival. While a bit of a jaunt, all reports are that the festival, scenery, and hospitality make Kluane Bluegrass a 'bucket list' adventure.

This year's festival is June 7-9 and features headliners including Chris Jones & the Night Drivers, Seth Mulder & Midnight Run, Darren Nicholson Band, Pharis & Jason Romero, the Lonesome Ace Stringband, and Veranda.

Plan ahead, do your research, and travel with care, but don't worry—the Yukon isn't that far away, and the roads north are well maintained. Be adventurous!

Northern Lights Bluegrass and Old-Time combines a few days of workshops along with a festival. Held near Big River, Saskatchewan, the workshops are August 12-16 with the festival August 16-18.

Another 'camping' event, Northern Lights has been going for over a decade now. Seth Mulder & Midnight Run headline a week of music instruction, jamming, and performance. Also on the bill are Golden Shoals, Tristen Durocher, Soil & Grass, Lost Highway Navigators, Gil & Wil, Mary Liv, Clayton Linthicum, Sharptail, Tubbman Junction, and others.

Back in Alberta, Shady Grove Bluegrass goes June 12-14. Situated in Sundre (northwest of Calgary), and presented by the Foothills Bluegrass Society, the performers for 2024 are not listed on their website. But, after much exploration I was able to find this year's acts on their Facebook page- The Rock Hearts, the Blue Canyon Boys, The Unfaithful Servants, Jake Vaadeland & the Sturgeon River Boys, Calvin Vollrath, Jackson Hollow, Doggone Brothers, and Sadie's Ghost. Sundre is a mid-sized community in Alberta's west country, the foothills I suppose, and there are local hotels and such available. The festival is dry camping only.

That's a start of the summer 2024 western Canadian Bluegrass festival lineups. I will update as able, and remember the folk festivals in Edmonton, Calgary, on Vancouver Island, and elsewhere typically feature a 'name' bluegrass act or two; Edmonton Folk Music Festival has already announced their headliner as Alison Krauss and Robert Plant—not bluegrass, of course, but definitely Alison!



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