For those that don’t know, North Country Fair takes place every year in the naturally gorgeous Driftple Valley about 45 minutes north of Slave Lake on the weekend following the summer solstice (aka the longest day of sunlight) each year. It is a festival of community sharing and planetary service where musical acts and other entertainment come together with about 5000 camping folks to promote sustainable development, use of alternate energy systems and encourage appreciation of the northern boreal forest… all while having one heck of a great time.
On Thursday evening before the event was to officially begin, I loaded my car with my extremely underutilized tent and sleeping bag along with some clothes, toilet trees and my acoustic guitar. As I hit the road I reflected on how my go to travel kit for staying in hotels was most likely going to fail me while out in the wilderness, but I was pretty sure it would be good enough for a couple nights. Camping has not been something I have had the time to experience properly in the last few years so I was genuinely excited to know I was on my way to get away from the city.
As I left Edmonton I stopped and picked up a flat of beer, water, two bags of ice, and a new cooler to fit it all in; had to have what I considered the essentials. To be honest I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into; I was asked a month prior by my friend Diana Graling if I would be willing to come out to North Country to volunteer as part of the Green Team, it sounded like tons of fun and I had heard of the good times had at NCF so why not?! Four hours of steady driving later and a very hidden sign leading to the entrance later, I made it to the site where my camping brethren had set up and already had a nice toasty fire going. The Green Team was beginning to assemble.
It was interesting going to the event as someone who is an event planner and marketer. I was thinking of all the ways they could increase exposure of the event, make it easier for people to find, etc., only to recognize that that would go against what they were trying to do out there. It would be unfair to call North Country Fair a concert or even a music festival, it’s more than that: it’s a community. The event itself has a very leave no trace kind of policy and they want to attract people through word of mouth, not through massive radio promotions or typical avenues. Its grass roots on every level, growing naturally and organically, in line with their overall mission.
That brings me to the Green Team, the reason I was there in the first place. The Green Team (Officially called “The Green Meeting Team“) is a group of unique individuals that have come together to help raise attendee awareness of sustainable event initiatives that help foster respect for our communities and the Earth through education and engagement. Our goal on site was to assist North Country in their sustainable festival efforts and raise awareness of the different green initiatives going on at the fair; and I don’t think anyone has ever had that much fun encouraging people to be green as we did! When you’re at such an amazing fair where everyone is already contributing, it makes raising awareness so much more enjoyable.
I think my favorite part was joining in on the drum circle they had going on in the vendor area with twenty other people while I was all decked out in my Green Team shirt and hat. I don’t think there is any other festival in Alberta you can go to where people enthusiastically shout out “GO GREEN TEAM” as they walk past you while you play in a drum circle. I think the people that attend, the volunteers and leaders that put on NCF all deserve a huge round of applause for what they have created out there. As someone who attends and plays at outdoor rock festivals and concerts, this is something else.
And I definitely will be going again next year!
– Shane Lamotte