THUNDER BAY -- The Folklore Festival gets bigger with each passing year.
Now in its 41st edition, the festival draws larger crowds to the Fort William Gardens, with this weekend’s expected to break their attendance record.
Jeanetty Jumah, chair of sponsorship and promotion, said the total attendance figure came in at more than 14,000 visitors.
“We let the whole city and community come in to share the wealth of their heritage with everybody,” Jumah said.
It’s not only at the gate where the venerable festival continues to expand.
Jumah says this year there were more groups interested in performing than the organizers can book.
It’s a good problem to have, she says.
For many of the groups performing, the Folklore Festival is the highlight of their season and is something they spend weeks to months preparing for.
Dina Campbell, president Le Stelle Alpine Italian dancers, says there is no event or venue comparable in the city.
“We’ve been dancing here since 1994 and we love dancing on this stage because the reaction from the audience is what gets us going,” she said.
The group, which has members as young as four-years-old up to their early 30s, was one of the first to hit the stage Sunday afternoon.
In addition to established groups, the stage at the Folklore Festival provides an opportunity to less well-known acts to land on the radar of residents.
That’s something Douglas Kyle of the Kaminari Wan taiko drumming group knows full well.
The group, which is performing the Japanese percussion art, first appeared on the stage two years ago and was a new performance.
Subsequent performances have allowed them to hone their skills and develop an audience.
“This is the best opportunity in the city for us,” he said. “It’s such a big crowd and very enthusiastic. The energy is quite different than other venues in the city because we usually play to smaller audiences. This is a real charge for us and we look forward to it all year.”
One of the biggest hallmarks of Folklore, of course, is the food.
Many people flock to the festival to check out the international food court, full of culinary delights from around the globe.
Long-time attendees have noticed a subtle shift in the available offerings, demonstrating the increasing diversity in the city.
Christina Mol has been attending the festival since she was in elementary school and is seeing it become less centred around only European heritage but is including other continents.
“I remember in the past there were more German and Swiss kind of things but now you’re seeing things like Indian and Burmese,” Mol said.
“This year I ate Burmese and I don’t think you can say every day of the week you ate Burmese food but I’ve tried it and I love it.”
Jumah said several of the food vendors reported they had more customers during the opening day on Saturday than they had at all of last year’s event.
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