Four decades of passion for folk fest

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The Winnipeg Folk Festival is recognizing a rock-music-lover-turned-folkie’s four-plus decades of volunteer work with its highest honour.

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The Winnipeg Folk Festival is recognizing a rock-music-lover-turned-folkie’s four-plus decades of volunteer work with its highest honour.

Candice Masters is one of two recipients of this year’s Glass Banjo Award, which recognizes volunteers, supporters, partners and organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to making the long-running festival what it is. The Asper Foundation will also receive the award.

“I’m very, very humbled,” says Masters, 65. “Every single volunteer is integral to the running of the festival, so to be singled out is a very big honour.”

A self-described ‘rock chick,’ Candice Masters became hooked on the Winnipeg Folk Fest as soon as she got involved as a volunteer in the 1970s. (Supplied)

Masters’ sister recruited her to volunteer at the festival sometime in the 1970s (she can’t remember the exact year) in a bid to get her mind off a recent breakup. A self-described “rock chick” who enjoyed listening to Led Zeppelin and Queen, Masters became hooked on folk fest as soon as she got involved.

Masters has volunteered in a number of different roles over the years, including scrubbing toilets and writing performer contracts — sometimes, she says, on the same day.

“In the early years, it was a handful of keen people who would do whatever needed to be done. It was all hands on deck for anything back in those days.”

Masters has volunteered at every festival since she first got involved.

“I once threatened to quit a job if they didn’t give me the weekend off. It truly is one of the most important things in my life.”

One of Masters’ proudest accomplishments is being part of the team of people that worked to keep the festival going when it was saddled with debt following a run of bad weather and low attendance for several years in the early 1980s.

“We would do whatever it took to keep that festival happening, because it was so magical for us and we believed in it so much. We weren’t going to let anything stand in the way of us having a festival.”

Since around 2001, Masters has volunteered as the main-stage artist liaison. It’s her responsibility to make sure everything goes according to plan.

She puts together binders of information for the main-stage hosts so they are informed about the festival and know what to say on stage, makes sure the musicians are well taken care of when they get to the festival site, and helps address any problems that may arise.

It’s a critical role, says Karla Ferguson, volunteer resources manager.

“She’s so familiar with the festival that she’s kind of made herself an indispensable part of the main show,” says Ferguson, who describes Masters as “a force of nature.”

“We’ve seen so many changes over the years, and folks like Candice are always willing to pitch in, meet us where we are and do what’s needed. She’s overdue for the Glass Banjo, and we’re glad to be able to recognize her now.”

After being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 47th edition of the folk festival will take place July 7-10 at Birds Hill Provincial Park. Masters will receive her award on the main stage Saturday night.

“Being a volunteer at the folk festival changed my life,” Masters says. “It actually directed the choices I made for my life. It’s given me a wealth of amazing experiences and friends from around the world.

“I really recommend to young people that they get out and volunteer,” she adds. “Find out what your passion is, because you’ll never be sorry.”

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com

fpcity@freepress.mb.ca

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