The late 1960s were a ripe period for Canadian arts and culture. A heightened sense of nationalism after the centennial, as well as Montreal playing host to the World Expo in 1967 put Canadian pride on the map, creating traction for a space that could showcase the country’s artistic labour. Regina Folk Festival has roots in the heart of this era, beginning on the Regina Campus of the University of Saskatchewan in 1969 as a celebration of Canadian folk music. The next few years saw great success, propelling the Regina Guild of Folk Arts into being by 1975 in the interest of fostering the folk community.
Throughout the 1970 and ’80s, the Guild promoted coffeehouses outside of festival hours, which snowballed into its own concert series that’s seen acts like indie supergroup New Pornographers and Six Shooter’s very own Whitehorse play at different venues recently. 1985 saw the Regina Folk Festival relocated to Victoria Park, where the event has taken place yearly ever since (save for a 1994 cancellation), and in recent years, artists like Serena Ryder, Sam Roberts Band, Vance Joy, Blue Rodeo and the Sheepdogs have all visited.
The fest also has a history of progressivism. Folk and children’s singer-songwriter Heather Bishop remembers receiving standing ovation at Regina Folk Festival after performing her songs with pertinent LGTBQ lyrics, something she noted was risky in 1976. Historically open to voices from the under-represented, festivalgoers can always expect to pick from their favourite in contemporary and well-established Canadian artists.