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South Country Fair all smiles and (mostly) sunshine

 Three-year-old Reese Adams-Wilk, from Lethbridge, was really feeling the music at the south stage when Steve Dawson and Jeremy Holmes played


Three-year-old Reese Adams-Wilk, from Lethbridge, was really feeling the music at the south stage when Steve Dawson and Jeremy Holmes played

Jenny Ritter's melodies drew a large crowd to the East Stage Saturday.

Jenny Ritter’s melodies drew a large crowd to the East Stage Saturday.

Claresholm's Gavin Moore takes part in a Nia demonstration at the South Country Fair Saturday.

Claresholm’s Gavin Moore takes part in a Nia demonstration at the South Country Fair Saturday.

J.W. SCHNARR – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
Heavy rain Friday couldn’t dampen the spirits of festival enthusiasts who descended on Fort Macleod to take in the sight, sounds, and smells of the 29th annual South Country Fair this past weekend.
The event has long been a fixture of the Fort Macleod summer scene, and draws fans of music and alternative culture from across the province.
And while Friday night brought rain, Saturday and Sunday were perfectly sunny July days.
Artistic director Jana McKenzie said while the weather caused some delays, it proved not to be an issue for the festival overall.
“We started a little late, but our first group that came on was a group of aboriginal dancers, and the rain stopped for them. After they were done, the rain started a little bit, but it’s good because there’s no fire ban. We can handle a little rain. And now it’s sunny.”
McKenzie said the number of people attending this year’s festival was on par with what she has seen in the past.
“Our numbers don’t fluctuate too much,” McKenzie said. “We have a pretty dedicated core of people. We can’t get much bigger, either. The campsite filled up early Friday morning.”
McKenzie noted the speed at which the campground filled up was fast compared to other years.
McKenzie has been involved with the festival for 20 years.
On Saturday, she said the festival had been going well up to that point.
“It’s been really good,” McKenzie said. “Last night (Friday) was amazing. And tonight is going to be even better.”
The festival is a unique fixture to southern Alberta and brings a lot of different kinds of music and experiences to the area.
“It brings people together from all across western Canada,” McKenzie said. “People come together and this is their little holiday. It’s like a family reunion.”
McKenzie added Fort Macleod has been a welcoming host to the event over the years. “Fort Macleod has been great to us. It’s a great space to be in.”
Anyone who has never been to the South Country Fair is in for an experience unlike many others in southern Alberta.
Neil Calder, from Grand Prairie, attended the festival for the first time this year, and while watching his young son Simon play a bowling game said he was impressed with the atmosphere. His wife has attended the festival in the past, and Calder wanted to see what South Country Fair is all about.
“It’s really great here,” Calder said, adding he was happy the weather turned around.
“It’s cool and casual, for sure,” McKenzie said. “Everybody just does their own thing. Nothing is too rushed.”
McKenzie noted the festival is a big success every year because of a large core group of volunteers, numbering more than 400 in all.
“It’s a very well-oiled machine,” McKenzie said. “But it’s just not rigid and structured.”
Lise Schulze, from Claresholm, held a Nia event in front of the South Stage before the afternoon lineup got under way. A large number of people took part.
“I have a lot of very supportive friends who came down,” Schulze joked following the event. “It went really well.”

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