Erley Combs gets comfy with ease inside a chicken coop during the 1985 Midsummer Music Festival.

Erley Combs gets comfy with ease inside a chicken coop during the 1985 Midsummer Music Festival.

Midsummer’s roots run deep

The origin of the Midsummer Music Fest began with five people at a coffee house and the family continues t grow.

The Midsummer Music Festival began 30 years ago as an idea pitched in the Styx River Coffee House.

Marian Rose, who now runs a dance-based business in Quebec, offered the idea to Kevin Widen after a small Blues festival at Driftwood Hall in 1984.

“I had recently met Marian and was also fresh off a trip to New Zealand and Australia,” Widen said.

“I had attended several festivals on my trip and was already thinking it would be a good idea to bring something like that here.

“We talked about it and I said I’d help, but I had no idea all the work needed to make it happen.”

For the 1984 festival planning began in February for an event as close to Summer Solstice as possible with a budget of around $150, Widen said.

“One of the first things we did was host a dance as a fund-raiser,” Widen said.

“Things began to come together from there.”

With a borrowed sound system and a relatively new sound crew led by Terry Hilton, who is currently a freelance audio professional in North Vancouver the event began.

“Those first years were miserable,” Widen said.

“But the rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the people.”

Widen has worn many hats within the Bulkley Valley Folk Music Society, which makes collective decisions that form each festival and has several stories from over the years, but one event from the second Midsummer has stuck with him.

“Sunday night in 1985 Erley Combs showed everybody that good things fit in small spaces,” Widen said.

“She took it upon herself to cram herself into a two-foot cube which normally housed chickens.

“I think it was the 25th year she actually did it again.”

The Midsummer festival has since grown into a well-attended event that is known throughout Canada for one simple reason, according to co-founder Norma and George Stokes.

However, the first year came with a pretty steep learning curve, according to co-founder Norma.

“I was trying to perform, had two toddlers in tow, we were staying in a tent in a barn and we didn’t get much sleep,” Norma said.

“We also found the performers needed food, so we decided to make a ton of perogies one year and have had our hospitality kitchen ever since.”

Norma is very proud of the festivals over the years and wants the local community to embrace it more than it already does.

“I have friends that have lived here for 20-years and have never been to the festival,” she said.

“People should understand that this is a family-friendly event.”

Her husband George agrees.

“We are a group of people who are here for the music,” George said.

“Midsummer is a showcase of music that’s available in the northwest to some degree.

“This event and the folk music society have helped to foster a ton of musicians.”

George listed a few bands, such as, No Time Flat, The Trainwrecks and most recently The Racket.

“One of the most amazing things about this festival is the amount of people who’ve started making music on their own,” he said.

“It’s like they come and see their neighbour play on stage and think, ‘Well if they can do it I can too’.”

As more musicians grow and learn it adds to the ever-expanding family started by Rose, Widen, the Stoke’s and Ted Turner, who passed away two-years ago.

“I don’t wanna say goodbye, so I’ll just say so long until another year has come and gone,” Raejean Laidlaw sang with more than 40 BVFMS folk on stage.

“‘Til we meet again fare thee well my friend.”

A fitting close to another successful festival.