Ness Creek Music Festival celebrates 30 years


“We want to keep doing this for another 30 years, supporting Saskatchewan musicians and artists.”

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The Ness Creek Music Festival started bringing music and cultural activities into the Big River community a little over 30 years ago. It now attracts around 3,000 people.

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After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the festival is back this summer, ready to finally celebrate its 30th anniversary, which was in 2020.

“We’re pretty excited to be celebrating 30 years this summer … We want to keep doing this for another 30 years, supporting Saskatchewan musicians and artists. Their being there is an important part of the community,” said artist and booking manager Deborah Aitken.

Organizers are especially excited to bring the community together again for the first time in three years, she said.

In celebration of 30 years at Ness Creek, the festival will have a feature display in the Jack Millikin Centre. Highlights from past festivals will be presented through photos and videos.

There will also be an interactive mural for participants to paint throughout the weekend.

“That’s going to be a celebratory piece to come out of the festival — we’ll have a giant mural that’s community-painted,” Aitken said.

Dancers perform at the Ness Creek Music Festival.
Dancers perform at the Ness Creek Music Festival. Photo by Jebunnessa Chapola /Supplied photo

The festival will hold several workshops, including one with founders sharing stories from past years and how it all started. In another workshop, Big River band Crooked Creek will teach participants how to play the traditional festival-opener, The Happy Song.

“It’s kind of our unofficial opening to the festival,” Aitken said.

New this year is a family camping area closer to the festival site’s downtown. In past years, Aitken said families have been camping far from the festivities, making it harder to get younger children back and forth during the day.

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“We wanted to find a spot that could be truly dedicated family camping and we’re going to give it a try and see how it goes this year,” she said.

A variety of music genres are represented, including folk, alt-country, pop, dance hall and hip hop. Local, national and international headlining bands include Kacy & Clayton, Megan Nash, Eekwol, Kobo Town and This Way North. The after-hours stage will feature Saskatchewan performers as well, with music playing late into the night.

“We do make the most of it while we’re there,” Aitken said.

Eekwol is one of the local headline performers at the 2022 Ness Creek Music Festival.
Eekwol is one of the local headline performers at the 2022 Ness Creek Music Festival. Supplied photo

Cultural Connections features entertainment and activities around Indigenous and international cultures. The Stage of Aquarius takes live music out on a pontoon boat, and the Next Generation Stage features music for youth.

There will also be a drum and dance circle, a sharing circle, nature walks and quiet walks in the boreal forest, a children’s area and swimming.

Annual traditions include a children’s parade with homemade papier-mâché masks that ends in a story time, and Wilma Groenen’s festival-closing performance of her song The Gathering of the Clans.

“We sing that together in the circle at the end of the festival. It’s our main tradition at the event,” Aitken said.

The music festival starts Thursday and runs through Sunday at the Ness Creek festival site, north of Big River. Tickets are available in Saskatoon at Better Off Duds, in Big River at Third and Main, online at nesscreekmusicfestival.com or at the gates.

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