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Midsummer Music Fest is just around the corner

Lineup includes Juno Award winners and a host of local talent
Colourfully decorated umbrellas were a highly visible feature of the 2023 Midsummer Music Festival. (Thom Barker/Black Press Media)

Small communities across the country are always trying to find ways to show their uniqueness and special qualities.

For a very long time, Smithers has exhibited virtues that show what a great place it is to live and continually seems to come up with events that extend that distinctiveness.

Over the past  41 years, the Midsummer Music Festival has become a venue for local musicians who want to get a start singing and playing and for well-known artists to perform for enthusiastic crowds.

This year’s festival is not just a group of locals getting together to share some picnic snacks and participate in a little sing-along fun. There certainly appear to be plenty of local performers looking for that chance to show how much they may have improved, but the headline acts attracted by the organizers are no lightweights when it comes to how well they can play away from back rooms and small taverns.

Ryan Widen, one of the main organizers for this year’s festival, says three of this year’s headline acts are Juno award winners while an additional pair have been nominated for top honours in the Canadian music industry.

Widen feels this year’s version has a rich and talented offering of performers and will entertain all ages and tastes.

Of course, there have been some changes, but these will undoubtedly be viewed as positive adjustments.

In the past, the festival usually ran on the last weekend of June but it always seemed to be cold and often overlapped with graduation or Canada Day. This has been changed to July 5-7.

”It’s a great weekend to have it," Widen said. "More performers seem to be available, and we can get more vendors. As in the past, the festival will be held at the Bulkley Valley Exhibition Grounds."

Widen’s involvement has been much more as an organizer than a performer. He has a daughter who has been a singer and while he plays the guitar, “performing is not my thing.”

Passion does not adequately describe his excitement for what the festival has to offer local residents.

“It’s a chance to see world-class music. In addition, many local musicians have gotten off to a great start here. There is something for everyone in the great variety of musical styles on offer,” he said.

Widen was also thrilled with the participation of volunteers in getting the festival up and running. He felt that without their involvement, it would be impossible to present a world-class music event that is the longest-running of its type in the Northwest.

According to Widen, the group charged with drawing good performers has done much more than an adequate job of attracting a top-notch collection of acts that will appeal to a wide array of musical sensitivities.

One of the best-known is returnee Valdy, whose career has lasted almost as long as the festival has run. The unmatched storyteller and guitarist has won two Junos to go with seven nominations and four gold albums. Audiences always look forward to his masterful interpretations of country, folk, rock and blues.

The festival is very excited to be able to present another two-time Juno winner Dan Mangan, a Smithers-born musician and songwriter who has become internationally known for his tours and collaborations on various projects such as soundtracks for companies such as Netflix and CBC.

Celeigh Cardinal has won a number of awards, but perhaps her most prestigious is the 2020 Juno Indigenous Artist of the Year. She is a regarded performer not only here but in Europe. Audiences look forward to the emotion and humour she brings to the stage.

One of the most intriguing headline artists is Ruby Singh. He hails from Vancouver. It is difficult to place his musical style into a single genre. Among his honours is a Lieutenant Governor’s Jubilee Award to go with a Juno nomination. His musical roots are a unique blend of cultural influences.

According to Widen, there is something for everyone at the festival. Music is a part of our lives from the earliest days and former CBC Kids TV star Will Stroet of Will's Jams is a Juno-nominated musician whose high-energy rock-pop music in English and French is full of witty wordplay and sing-along choruses. He inspires his young listeners to be creative as he and the band perform hits from his 12 albums, which are masterpieces of creativity and fun.

Christine Tassan and Les Imposteures will share their musical trek around the world with energetic tunes and captivating anecdotes that will help share with their Gypsy jazz and swing renditions. They have toured the globe for 20 years and help us share in their wonder of natural and man-made spectacles such as the Rockies and the Great Wall of China.

Festival planners have not forgotten that excellence does not spring just from our larger communities. Major Funk is a powerful dance band out of Whitehorse that will be sure to get any crowd moving to its beat. Over the past years, esteemed local flautist Tobey Moisey of Smithers has performed with bands with a wide range of harmonic appeals and now lends his expertise to the northern funk band with his harmonies.

While the headline acts alone would be enough to satisfy quite an assortment of musical tastes, there will also be an extensive list of local groups and individuals to enjoy. Currently there are close to 50 acts in addition to the more prominent performers.

According to Widen, there is still plenty of room for volunteers at all levels. More information about the festival including the schedule, tickets and volunteering is available on the festival website