Every August the Trout Forest Music Festival is staged at the Ear Falls Waterfront Park, just one hour north of Vermillion Bay on Highway 105. Camping on the shores of the English River, part of the Historic Red Lake Gold Rush Trail, and the late night jam sessions around the bonfires make for a memorable experience of Music in the Woods. The “Trout” features workshops, creative arts selection, great food and the best in Northern hospitality with the beautiful Trout Lake Forest as a pristine backdrop.
Trout Forest Music Festival had its beginnings in Pakwash Park, August 1996. With attendance of 106, the festival was born out of hard work and the dedication of the cofounders, Yvonne Lewis and Lloyd Romaniuk, with assistance from Ken Bilton, then Artistic Director of the Cabbage Town Music Festival, and John Cookshaw, sound technician for the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
The first Trout Forest Music Festival, despite its modest start, put its indelible mark on future festivals. The sharing of stories and songs around the campfire remains an important element for festival campers, performers and volunteers.
The second annual Troutfest almost never happened. There were too many concerns to be addressed, from the lack of parking, to the electrical service at Pakwash Park. Two important things happened to make it a reality. The Winnipeg Folk Festival Artistic Director, Pierre Guerin, strongly suggested that the Festival had to go on, and offered his assistance and expertise. Dennis Stastook, a Councilor of the Township of Ear Falls, offered the use of the Ear Falls Waterfront Park with a cost attached. The second annual Festival was held, and it made a surplus of $47.00.
The third Festival saw an increase in attendance, two days of festival activity, and a feeling that the festival had found a new home in Ear Falls.
Our fourth Festival, held in 1999, continued to grow and develop. Grants provided important new resources. The festival was quickly developing strong community roots, and was receiving growing support.
The new Millennium saw the fifth Festival grow in corporate sponsorship, increased inkind community support, more campers, more festival goers, and two additional stages. With the help of a grant from Canadian Heritage, the Festival was able to increase the number of performers on the lineup. Support from the Trillium Foundation allowed the development and printing of a professionalquality brochure and poster. Also for the first time, the festival held a Volunteer Appreciation Concert, featuring Fred J. Eaglesmith, for the many volunteers who assisted in making Trout Forest Music Festival the success it had become.
In 2001, the sixth Trout Forest Music Festival saw an audience increase of 52%; the Festival was becoming a regional success. It continues to be a tradition for performers and audience members to gather and jam around a bonfire after the stages finished for the evening. It is our way of dropping the walls between performers and their audience and during this year a place was set aside on the Festival grounds with bleacher seating around a large bonfire area.
Special stage performances and latenight jam sessions carried the theme of “Latin Music in the Woods” at the seventh Trout Forest Music Festival. Although inclement weather reduced the overall attendance, the number of campers increased.
Willie P. Bennett hosted a Volunteer Appreciation Night following a daytime mentoring workshop in September. One hundred and fifty people attended the evening dinner and concert.
Excellent weather, a focused volunteer effort and further increase in partnerships and sponsorships of the festival continued growth in 2003. The addition of a festival coordinator intern (funded by FedNor) provided a fresh new face to head up development of the volunteer aspect of the event. The “East Coast Kitchen Party” was a step forward in terms of the artistic development of the festival. The Artistic Director’s presence at such events as the Ontario Council of Folk Festival’s annual conference, the Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso, NS, the Atlantic Event and the ECMA’s allowed the festival to attract new artists from the far east of the country. If Latin Music in the Woods didn’t quite make change in this area, East Coast Kitchen Party galvanized themebased programming as a new tradition for the Trout.
The festival went through some major changes to prepare for the event in 2004. The roles of the Artistic and Executive Director were split into two separate positions in order for the organization’s staff to continue to provide adequate management and guidance of the festival’s operations. This change should position the festival on track towards sufficient staffing to match anticipated growth in future seasons.
Our Festival surveys show that the Festival is continually building a community of supporters and more and more festivalgoers are incorporating a vacation around the weekend, traveling north to Red Lake, or camping and fishing in the region. The past eight years have proven what a small Northern Community can accomplish by putting their heart and soul into the festival. We have been very fortunate to have a dedicated volunteer core that can make it possible to bring music and the performing arts to a remote community in the woods.
The artistic philosophy of the Trout Forest Music Festival has always been to showcase quality Canadian performers, and while “headline” acts have not been a priority, some of the talented people who have graced our stages are: Bill Bourne, Valdy, Fred J. Eaglesmith, Rita Chiarelli, Al Simmons, Richard Moody, and John Gracie.
After the 10th Festival in 2005, funding was secured to assist in the building of a permanent Main Stage & Band Shelter at the Ear Falls Waterfront Park. The stage was completed in August in time for its grand unveiling at the 11th Annual Trout Forest Music Festival. This step solidifies the Waterfront Park in Ear Falls as the home of Trout Forest Music Festival for years to come.
In 2007, the Festival welcomed a new Artistic Director, Devin Latimer after our long time A.D. moved on to concentrate on his musical career. Devin’s first year was certainly a learning experience, but he was quick to the task and programmed a festival that many considered our best lineup in recent memory.
August 7th, 8th and 9th marks the 20th edition of the Trout Forest Music Festival.
The Board and staff invite everyone to come and join us and celebrate our 20th anniversary…
“Catch the Trout, It’s Music in the Woods”
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