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Mill Race Folk Festival


by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

Mill Race Festival of Traditional Folk Music

When I first heart the name “Mill Race” I thought they were talking about a car race or bike race or some kind of contest. It wasn’t until I checked out their website that I discovered that the race part they were referring to was an old mill on the banks of the Grand River in downtown Galt. And the type of festival had nothing to do with racing but everything to do with great music. As I kept reading their website, I learned that this was a festival that had been running for 16 years and featured some fantastic folk singers. All in all it sounded like a great festival, so Judi and I decided to drive to Cambridge (the Galt section) and see what the festival was all about. We left Cobourg at noon and took the 401 highway west. The traffic through Toronto was as usual, not very good, but we managed to maneuver through the traffic safely and arrived in Cambridge around 2:30. The event was easy to find as the main stage is located at the Mill Race Park just off of the main street. We knew we were in the right location because we could hear the music from afar. We lucked into a convenient parking spot, gathered our gear and walked (raced) to the Mill Race Folk Festival.

The Music

The Mill Race Amphitheatre was very crowded when we reached it. The rush of the Grand River flowing past the theatre added to the excitement and ambiance of the event. People were seated around the natural amphitheatre listening to several musicians perform. The difference with this festival is that the musicians talk to their audience and explain their music and instruments. Each, in turn, talks and performs. The well informed audience love them. From the Mill Race Amphitheatre we moved to the next venue. The Mill Race Folk Festival is made up of 7 venues and performances are held throughout this 3 day event. The Water Street Stage offered children fun performances. We stayed and watched as the kids in the audience clapped and danced! While listening to the music the kids could visit the "Beyond the Clef" to try "hands-on" musical instruments! This was great fun for both parents and children. Further in town we walked towards the Civic Square Stage. Along the way we met one of the organizers, Jay Moore. Jay had been our contact with the festival. Jay led us the rest of the way to the Civic Square Stage. We stopped to listen to the performance on stage and then Jay suggested that he take us up to Main Street Stage. He said he was on his way there when he met us. We followed to the stage. A wonderful guitarist was performing. Jay wanted to show us as much as possible before he left to continue his festival duties, so he took us to the Café 13 Venue. He showed us the room where the festival was taking place, but unfortunately there were none scheduled at the time we were there. After this Jay excused himself and left us to continue exploring. We returned to the Main Street Stage to listen to the guitarist. We stayed until the end of his performance and then headed back to the Civic Square Stage. Adjacent to the stage was a Market Plaza. This area contained a number of craft vendors plus a space for dance performances. A dance performance was taking place when we arrived. We stayed to watch for a while and then explored the craft vendor booths. After this exploration, we continued to the Civic Square Stage. A performance was already in progress. We found seats and sat down to listen. The music and performance was great! I must say Judi and I really enjoyed this performer. It was getting late in the afternoon, so we decided to wind our way back to our car. Across the street from the Civic Square Stage was the final venue, the Golden Kiwi Pub. The sound of music flowed from their outdoor deck. Along the way we stopped back at the Mill Race Amphitheatre to listen to more great music! The Mill Race Folk Festival certainly lived up to its reputation. The members of the Mill Race Folk Society should be very proud of all their efforts!