Calgary festival wants to be the anti-Stampede

All stamped out?

Well, Inspire Fest is a new all ages music and arts festival that wants to be everything the Stampede is not.

“Definitely a bit of a counterculture to it here, and wanted to have an alternative to the Stampede, especially [one] that caters to other people that maybe aren’t fans of that kind of music or they don’t really like the Stampede culture,” said the festival’s program director, Kenton Doborowski.

Inspire Fest program director Kenton Doborowski pictured before the festival on July 15, 2022. He says Inspire Fest is for people who may not feel like the Stampede is for them. (Oseremen Irete/CBC)

The all-ages festival kicked off Friday, July 15 and will run until Sunday, July 17.

Headlined by two Calgary acts — self-styled lo-fi soul duo Sergeant and Comrade, and indie rockers The Static Shift — organizers say unlike larger, more commercial festivals, Inspire Fest is for and by local artists.

“It’s all local Calgarian musicians, bands, vendors a lot of the DJs as well are all from around here. Same with all the people putting it on, all the organizers just everything’s been straight from Calgary,” said Doborowski.

Cheyanne Summer is performing at the festival. She says the opportunity to grace a stage is even more important for local acts coming out of the pandemic.

“There’s so many local festivals, but there’s not a lot of local talent at the festivals. It’s really hard — especially coming out of the pandemic — not having any band practice or live performances under your belt to get the live shows that you want to get,” she said.

Cheyanne Summer poses for a photo before Inspire Fest at Highfield Regenerative Farm in Calgary on July 15, 2022. (Oseremen Irete/CBC)

“So this has given an opportunity for a lot of new artists to get the exposure that they need to keep climbing up the ladder,” she added.

The festival has a food market with local vendors and art installations throughout the grounds created by local artists.

Doborowski says the inspiration behind it was creating a Shambala style festival in Calgary — a nod to the Salmo, BC electronic music festival run by a team of volunteers.

One of the most obvious similarities between the festivals is their locations, with both taking place on farms.

Inspire Fest is at the Highfield Regenerative Farm, a 15 acre urban community farm nestled in an industrial area in southeast Calgary. The farm is a project working to reclaim and regenerate the formerly vacant lot.

Summer says this is another way this festival is different from others in the city.

“I think it offers a nice space where you can come out, relax with your family [and] not have to worry about a million people at the stampede on a concrete hot ground. [It’s] some place to go enjoy nature,” she said.

A beer garden sign on the floor during set up before Inspire Fest at Highfield Regenerative Farm in Calgary on July 15, 2022. (Oseremen Irete/CBC)

Nathan Richards is a volunteer with Highfield Farm, who is helping set up for the festival. He hopes the festival can bring more attention to the farm and the work it does.

“I hope people come to this event not only inspired by the tunes and the attractions, but the farm itself, the effort that goes into this place to keep it running,” he said.

“I hope people come here and say this is a beautiful place, I’d love to see it thrive,” he added.

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