The Calgary Festival aims to be the Anti-Stampede

All punched out?

Well, Inspire Fest is a new all-ages music and arts festival that aims to be everything the Stampede isn’t.

“Definitely a bit of a counterculture here and mostly wanted an alternative to Stampede [one] aimed at other people who might not be fans of this type of music or don’t really like Stampede culture,” said the festival’s program director, Kenton Doborowski.

Inspire Fest Program Director Kenton Doborowski 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 festival for all ages started on Friday 15th July and will last until Sunday 17th July.

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

“It’s all local Calgarian musicians, bands, vendors and a lot of the DJs are all local. Same goes for all the folks who are putting it on, all the organizers, it’s all straight out of Calgary,” Doborowski said.

Cheyanne Summer performs at the festival. She says the opportunity to grace a stage is even more important for local acts emerging from the pandemic.

“There are so many local festivals, but there isn’t a lot of local talent at the festivals. It’s really hard — especially post-pandemic — not having band rehearsals or live performances under your belt to get the live shows 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 a lot of new artists the opportunity to get the exposure they need to continue moving up the ladder,” she added.

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

Doborowski says the inspiration behind it was the creation of 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, as both take place on farms.

Inspire Fest takes place at Highfield Regenerative Farm, a 15-acre urban community farm in an industrial area in Southeast Calgary. The farm is a project aimed at reclaiming and regenerating the formerly vacant lot.

According to Summer, this is one of the things that sets this festival apart from others in the city.

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

A beer garden sign on the ground during setup prior to Inspire Fest at Highfield Regenerative Farm in Calgary on July 15, 2022. (Oseremen Irete/CBC)

Nathan Richards is a Highfield Farm volunteer who helps set up the festival. He hopes the festival can draw more attention to the farm and its work.

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

“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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