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The Shelter Valley Folk Festival was started in 2004 by Aengus Finnan but he handed over the reins to others in 2011.  From the beginning, the Festival was located at the Henkel Family Farm in Grafton but in 2015, there was a problem with that.  It was eventually resolved but by 2016, there was a new board in place, a new artistic director and a new executive director and the organization was never quite the same.   Donors were not as forthcoming and volunteers were harder to recruit.  The most recent newsletter from the board asks that members assist with deciding whether to continue past the 2017 Festival or should it be the last one.

In their AGM meeting held February 4, 2017, it was decided that the 2017 Festival would be the last one held at the Henkel Farm and that its future would be decided “after the Festival”.  But an emailed letter to supporters on June 14 said:

The SVFF Board is looking to members to have a conversation regarding moving forward - do we start to look for a new festival site for 2018, take a break, or call it a day? We need everyone to give input, do we have the passion, the capacity, the resources to move forward? 

SVFF PerformersPerformers at the 2005 FestivalThe current status for the 2017 Festival is that Early Bird tickets have been sold, there is an ongoing call for volunteers and donors and 7 performers have been booked.  Usually by this time of year, a full lineup has been named - usually around 15 performers.

The minutes of the AGM in February also said:

We heard from core volunteers that they can no longer give the hours that they have donated in the past, due to the physical challenges required by our site. We heard from others that the work of the festival is taking people away from their families and taking a toll on the lives of volunteers. The Festival Board members are united in believing that this lack of sustainability goes against our values, and must not continue.

So it’s likely that this year’s Festival will be the last.  It’s not like there are no other Folk Festivals in Ontario.  A letter to the SVFF ticketholders and volunteers from Folk Music Ontario lists 25 other Folk Festivals so there are many alternatives. You can download the letter here.

The discussion of the future of the Festival will take place at the Annual Picnic for the SVFF “Family” on Sunday, June 25, from noon - 3pm at the Henkel Family Farm in Grafton.  The picnic is a “Bring your plate, cup, utensils, beverage, food (to share), blanket or chair, musical instrument” event – no dogs. There will be a members meeting at 1:30 although others are welcome. 

It will be a shame to see it go – but this year it’s still happening!  More info at the SVFF web site here.

Update – July 28, 2017

A SVFF Newsletter on July 28 confirmed that the 2017 festival will be the last one.

Here is the announcement.

Hello Friends,

It's with some sadness that we're announcing that SVFF 2017 will be the last Shelter Valley Folk Festival for the foreseeable future.  At a meeting of the membership, a significant majority voted against holding a festival in 2018.

There are many reasons, but chief amongst them are financial - the high costs of maintaining aging infrastructure - and volunteer exhaustion.  We've all worked very hard to create this beautiful jewel of a festival, and we're very grateful to everyone who has put time, expertise, and love into Shelter Valley. Let's hope that, like the Mary Ellen Carter, she'll Rise Again!

We will continue in the meantime to exist as a year-round organization, with programming like the Community Concert Series, Artists in the Schools, and the Village Sessions. 

And of course, we have Shelter Valley 2017 to look forward to - a celebration of all that we've worked for and achieved over the past 14 years.  While we say goodbye to the festival, we aren't saying goodbye to the community, nor to the many friends who've become family through meeting and getting to know each other at the festival.

You can buy tickets on the Shelter Valley Folk Festival website. Please join us for one last festival celebration of grassroots community culture on the Henkel Family Farm!

You can also volunteer to be a part of the 2017 Festival Crew - fill out the Volunteer Application Form online or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

See you 'round the campfire,
Candace Shaw
Chair, Shelter Valley Folk Festival