The John Arcand Fiddle Fest is designed with young musicians and dancers in mind and adheres to a grassroots philosophy allowing all to experience a culturally rich experience, at a low admission rate with effective programming that serves our mandate “to promote and preserve fiddle, music and dance and provide a forum to showcase youth talent and culture”.
John Arcand, widely known in Canada as Master of the Métis Fiddle, founded the Fest in 1998 to promote the traditions of fiddle music and dance. He knew that for the traditions to live on, young people must adopt them. Because of that the festival is a family affair with a very large workshop component.
Workshops last two full days and deliver something for virtually any level of player – including the absolute beginner fiddler with fiddles provided. The instructors are well known and respected fiddlers, dancers, and guitar players who come from all over Canada. Red River Jigging, one of the mainstays of Métis culture is also taught. The festival has a strong Métis theme, but also promotes other types of fiddle, music and dance from all cultures.
Another interactive opportunity to develop technical, competition and performance skills is the fiddle contest…now one of the largest in Western Canada. The competition features the Traditional Metis Category, the John Arcand Category as well as the traditional contest levels for all ages and skill levels. Some contest preliminaries start on Friday – the bulk of them run Saturday afternoon and the finals run on Sunday.
Surrounding the formal opportunities to learn are many informal opportunities as fiddle instructors and young participants network throughout the weekend in conversation and spontaneous jam sessions.
There are evening concerts Thursday, Friday and Saturday and both Friday and Saturday evenings end with an old time dance. Saturday morning starts with the “Fiddle and Flapjacks” Breakfast (a pancake breakfast with live fiddle music) Sunday Morning starts with a non-denominational hour of gospel music.
Surrounding the festival’s artistic presentations is a family friendly atmosphere and planned interactive activities for kids in the Children’s Area.
The Cultural Camp was introduced in 2013. A designated area on the festival grounds that features a variety of inter-active hands on Metis crafts and traditions. Everything from finger weaving to storytelling and includes the very popular Metis Traditional Dance workshops.
There is free un-serviced camping right on site as well as a concession. For those who prefer serviced camping or hotel accommodations, the surrounding area offers many options.
And, all of this is offered for a one time gate fee…there is no charge for entering competitions, or participating in workshops. General admission is just $60 per weekend per person or $25 per day. Children 12 & under are admitted free when they come with a parent or guardian. Admission is only at the gate and not sold in advance.
This festival has been quietly growing strong and is widely acclaimed for its quality instruction, family-like atmosphere, and for the way that it brings developing and professional artists together to learn from one another both formally and informally. It is also highly regarded for its seemingly magical powers to dissolve the cultural barriers that sometimes interfere with harmony in day to day life. Participants come from a variety of ancestries and from all over Saskatchewan, Canada, and even into the United States. Once at the Fiddle Fest, they become one nation and one community – all united around music, dance, and fun.