An important Fort Macleod tradition continued on the weekend with the 25th annual South Country Fair.
The event has grown from modest beginnings of folk fans gathering for a weekend of music to become one of the best small music festivals in Canada.
“Out of 25 years, I think this has been the best year,” artistic director Maureen Chamber said.
Chambers credited strong attendance, positive energy and the hard work of the organizing committee.
Amos Garrett, who was South Country Fair’s first paid performer, reflected Sunday afternoon on the event’s growth he has witnessed over the years.
“It has been 15 years since I last played south Country Fair,” the legendary Alberta blues musician Garrett said. “You’ve come a long way.”
Garrett recalled playing in the fair’s early days in what he called a “dust bowl.”
“But we still had fun,” Garrett added.
South Country Fair now calls Fort Macleod Fish and Game Park home, which provides an idyllic setting near the Oldman River.
“You’ve got a great venue now,” Garrett said.
Chambers invited fair favourites Garrett, Cousin Harley and Captain Tractor back in 2011 to give the 25th anniversary a bit of a reunion flavour.
True to its mandate of providing an eclectic mix, South Country Fair featured Namgar, a group that played traditional Mongolian instruments and songs, along with Gabriel Yacoub, a leading folk artist from France with 30 albums to his credit.
Also in the lineup was Back Porch Swing, a “cow jazz” group; spoken word performers The Recipe; Tequila Mocking Bird Orchestra and their gypsy-inspired World music; and Prairie Oyster front man Russell de Carle and his new trio.
Poets also treated fans to the spoken word in Lotus Land.
South Country Fair fans braved a fierce wind on Friday but then basked under the hot sun on Saturday and Sunday.
There was entertainment for children in the afternoon in Kidz Kountry, and people took in demonstrations of NIA fitness and tai chi.
Merchants set up tents in the fair’s market place to offer services such as henna tattoos, and to sell goods ranging from clothes to jewellery.
Chambers was pleased this year to see a new, young group of volunteers help stage South Country Fair.
Their support, along with a large crowd and great music, bode well for South Country Fair’s future.
“I think we’ll be back,” Chambers said with a smile.