South Country Fair (or The Fair, as it’s affectionately known around Lethbridge Alberta and area) continues to grow in the hearts of the people who make the pilgrimage down the always dusty Lyndon Road, off the Crowsnest Highway in Fort Macleod, AB.
Fort Macleod is a rather unassuming place with a population just over 3,000 people, and an intriguing story about a potential UFO sighting dating back to the 1950s.
However, as with any small town, there’s more than meets the eye.
The Fair is a three-day, camping, music, and arts festival experience. Its vibe is homemade, communal, and a little familial—like a giant reunion for a big laidback family.
Every year, the giant, shark mouth shaped stage showcases some of the best in North American blues, folk, rock, and rockabilly music. The shows are always diverse (there was a beatboxer this year) and the acts are never boring.
One particular group that has made several appearances is NAMGAR.
NAMGAR is pure energy, and they manage to successfully win over the crowd each time they play The Fair. They deserve every bit of applause and holler. They have their own kind of sound; something called “ethno rock.”
NAMGAR – “Two Yokhor”
Another great act this year was the Little Miss Higgins & the Winnipeg Five. Miss Higgins made a few appearances onstage throughout the weekend, each time wrapping up her folksy, boot-stomping music with a reminder to slather on sunscreen, drink water and “be safe!” It’s the sort of advice you’d come to expect at a family event, after all.
Little Miss Higgins & the Winnepeg Five are always an aundience favourite. Credit: Brandon Wallis.
Since it’s inception in 1987, The Fair stays true to its roots. A chat with the “Mayor of South Country Fair” Mark Sadlier-Brown reveals insight into why the Fair continues to thrive with a relatively small community.
“I have been going to the festival for over 25 years and it has grown…but not a lot. I think the fact that the festival is still fairly small is something that works. It is manageable. The staff and volunteers are “hands on” and still get to enjoy the music instead of it being a “big business” venture. There has to be discipline and rules but people are not treated like cattle. That works for me.”
When asked about why he thinks festivalgoers keep coming back, Sadlier-Brown calls The Fair, “a great getaway.”
“They mix the talent so some of it is tried and true and then they throw in some surprises. So I will hear a band like Cousin Harley and say ‘Wow, I have heard them before and they blew my mind again.’”
A smaller music community means closer proximity to the musicians, too. As Sadlier-Brown puts it, “You can actually get to know your musical hero’s on a personal level. Sometimes I meet young adults who were influenced by me years ago when they were little children. Many of them have grown into top-notch musicians.”
With all its comfort and charm, South Country Fair is also a place where campers can enjoy a quality atmosphere, as long as they don’t mind the occasional bongo-player at 5:00 am. But like any family reunion, there’s always a few wild partiers who stay up late.
Seriously, any place with signs posted to remind people to “be nice” and “not kill the good vibe” is probably doing something right.
Rock on, South Country Fair and may your BFL shine on forever.
– Leyland Bradley
Questions? Comments? Suggestions?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @LeylandMarie