An Insider's Guide to Folk Fest

Never been to Folk Fest? Ed Hoover has all the info you need to approach the festival like a seasoned pro.


Ed Hoover has been volunteering with the Calgary Folk Music Festival since 1994 — long enough to become the unofficial “ombudsman,” acting as a liaison between the volunteer corps and festival administration. With all that time logged on the grounds and behind the scenes, Hoover could be considered the ultimate insider. Here are his best tips on how to make the most of the Folk Fest experience.

Photography by Chris Tait

Beer Gardening 101

The beer garden line generally moves along at a good clip, but sometimes it is longer than others. A high-energy act will draw people out of the garden. Following that, they’ll generally head back in. Your best bet for minimal lineup is to take the opposite approach and head in when the main stage is rocking. 

On the Line

Speaking of lines, the Thursday-evening queue at the main gates is always unavoidably long on account of four-day passholders picking up their passes. If you’re one of those passholders, you can help things along by picking up your pass at the festival offices in Inglewood on the Tuesday or Wednesday prior. “We’re trying to get more people to realize that’s available,” Hoover says.

Just Eat It

The festival’s food-vendor strip can be a bit daunting — a gauntlet of everything from coffee and gelato to pulled pork, pizza and pakoras. Whatever you end up choosing, Hoover suggests avoiding traditional mealtimes, when the lineups are longest. 


Generally, selecting a porta-potty is all about proximity and level of desperation. That said, Hoover notes that the row of potties closest to the main stage tends to be underutilized during the daytime hours but sees a crush of activity during the evening while the headliners are performing and might best be avoided at that time.

Throw Down or Boogie Down

“Tarpies” — festivalgoers who claim space on the lawn in front of the main stage by laying down tarps — inevitably have the best sightlines for the headliner shows. If you don’t tarp, Hoover notes the designated dancing zones on either side of the stage are your best bet for great views. Time to get over your aversion to dancing, tough guy.

It’s Their Party

The legendary volunteer-appreciation after-parties with private performances by festival artists are a key reason why Folk Fest doesn’t have trouble filling its 1,600-strong volunteer ranks. Non-volunteers always try to crash, but Hoover doesn’t encourage that sort of thing. In other words, if you want to be welcome at the volunteer party, become a volunteer yourself (applications for 2015 open next March). 

The Calgary Folk Music Festival runs July 24 to 27. For tickets and information, visit

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