Introducing the Western Canada Bluegrass Association

While at Wintergrass we attended the obligatory hospitality suites from bluegrass organizations such as Oregon, Washington, and Montana. We also visited a suite hosted by the new nonprofit organization, Western Canada Bluegrass Association (WCBA). The suites, of course, are known for putting on showcases, jams, socializing, plus after hours eats and drinks for those who just can’t enough. We saw a showcase by the Savage Hearts in their suite proceeded by a trivia contest where I was lucky to win a hat from the NimbleFingers camp in British Columbia.

Unbeknownst to me, sitting next to us was author, journalist, musician Bob Remington, who is Co-Artistic Director and does Media, Promotion, and Advertising for the Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival. Bob reached out to me later in the week to share pictures, videos of the bands and general goings-on at the suite including showcases by Hardly Handsome, Bella White, the Doggone Brothers, and others.

It turns out that the WCBA is an alliance of multiple festivals and organizations in western Canada to promote bluegrass in that area of the world. The following is a Western Canada Bluegrass Association fact sheet which Bob shared, and I will just include in its entirety. 

Hi Dave

The Western Canada Bluegrass Association is an alliance of six bluegrass festivals (including one music camp) that formed as co-operative marketing initiative this year. We also want to get word out that bluegrass seems to be booming in Western Canada. Festivals are expanding, winning awards, and increasing audiences. 

In September, the Blueberry Bluegrass Festival at Stony Plain, Alberta near Edmonton won Event of the Year honors at the IBMA Awards. A few hours south of Blueberry, the Shady Grove Bluegrass Festival, run by Calgary’s Foothills Bluegrass Music Society, is relocating to a new site after outgrowing its former location. Shady Grove’s story is similar to the Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival on Vancouver Island, which last year relocated to a new site near Lake Cowichan, British Columbia after outgrowing its former site at Sooke, BC. The move resulted in a 30 per cent increase in attendance. 

Also in BC, the highly-regarded NimbleFingers Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Workshops and Festival at Sorrento, on the shores of Shuswap Lake, is a two-week music camp as good as any on the continent. Both it and Shady Grove have been around about 30 years. 

Up North, the Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival at Haines Junction, Yukon — the only festival “north of 60” — continues to present strong lineups. And in Saskatchewan, the Northern Lights Music Camp and Festival enters its 15th year. 

These six organizations recently banded together to form the association, hosting the first Canadian hospitality and jam suite at Wintergrass. Blueberry, Shady Grove, NimbleFingers ,and Northern Lights are all in August, creating something of a Western Canada circuit of bluegrass festivals. Cowichan and Kluane are in June. 

With long distances across the region, one of our goals is to encourage bluegrass fans to explore our regions — the Canadian Rockies; the six UNESCO World Heritage sites in Alberta; Kluane National Park, home to Canada’s highest peak (5,959-metre Mount Logan), its largest icefield and North America’s most genetically diverse grizzly population; the lakes, hunting and fishing of northern Saskatchewan including Northern Lights’ nearby Prince Albert National Park; houseboating on the Shuswap Lakes at NimbleFingers; and the Cowichan festival’s location on Vancouver Island, which is a CNN Top 20 destination for 2020. 

Bob Remington
Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival

Thanks, Bob and congrats to all the member organizations participating in this new endeavor.

Photographs and videos by Bob Remington

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About the Author

Dave Berry

Dave Berry is an avid mandolin picker, singer and songwriter who writes an interview column for the monthly California Bluegrass Association (CBA) members publication featuring California regional and national artists who tour California. He grew up in bluegrass country on the Ohio River right between where the Big Sandy and Big Scioto Rivers dump into the Ohio. The columns are also featured on the CBA website at www.cbaweb.org.