Musicians from across Alberta are reaching for the stars in a summer fundraiser that draws music lovers to Aspen Crossing in droves.
The popular wedding destination near Mossleigh plays host to close to 20 musical numbers from country and blues to folk and rock this weekend in its Southern Alberta Music Festival, while raising money for STARS Air Ambulance.
The festival runs Aug. 9 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Aug. 10 from 10 a.m. to midnight.
“It’s a great way for people of all walks of life all age groups to get together,” said marketing manager Rochelle Watt. “Music is such a necessary art form that feeds the soul and just makes us all feel good. Music festivals and summer seem to go hand-in-hand.”
With such a wide variety of musical talent being offered, including such musicians as Lyndsay Butler, Drew Gregory and bands like Renegade Station, The Dusty Saddle Gang and Spitzee Post, combined with the fundraiser for STARS, Watt said it’s a win-win event.
“We’re pretty excited to have many of them back this year,” she said. “They’re very loyal to the cause for STARS. These guys travel across Canada and the U.S. and some of them play backup for a lot of major stars and open for a lot of major stars.”
The festival began seven years ago as a fundraiser to support High River residents impacted by the 2013 southern Alberta flood. Since then, money raised has gone to STARS.
Last year’s festival raised around $18,500 for the cause.
“It’s such a vital and necessary service,” Watt said of STARS. “We’ve got so much farm country out here and a long stretch of the highway. I don’t think this area would survive without something like that.”
Watt saw the benefits of the service first-hand when a couple of friends visited her home from British Columbia a few summers ago. Watt said the husband, who was fit and healthy, had returned from a morning run before suffering from a heart attack in her livingroom.
STARS airlifted him from Vulcan to Calgary and he was in and out of surgery and into recovery by the time his wife arrived.
“They figure if it hadn’t have been for STARS he wouldn’t have made it,” said Watt. “I’d done the music festival for several years at that point and lo and behold. You just never know.”
Milo singer/songwriter and Juno Award nominee Larry Vannatta was among those instrumental in organizing the festival, and each year graces it with his music.
This year he’s back as Larry V and the Champion Worship Team, a singing group from Champion Congregational Church, who will perform during Saturday morning’s pancake breakfast.
“We’re going to bring worship right on stage and play a bunch of worship music,” said Vannatta. “We will play lots of fun stuff and some new stuff including four or five originals that I wrote.”
Vannatta has been performing with the church worship team for about a decade. It’s evolved from traditional hymns to songs with Vannatta’s country flare and some rock influence.
“It’s not only spiritual but it’s very fun,” he said. “Sometimes we have more people on stage than we do in the audience. Now we’re starting to play at other events and old folks homes once in a while.”
Bringing some country flavour to the festival is Gladys Ridge’s Lyndsay Butler.
Butler, who’s only missed one festival in its seven years due to a wedding, will perform Saturday evening.
“It’s really fun to be a part of the community doing what I love to do and also being out there for STARS and supporting a great cause,” she said. “I will be playing pretty well all of my songs. I will throw in some of my favourite old country covers.”
As a Top 12 finallist in the Project Wild/Wild 953 artist development program, designed to develop and launch the careers of up and coming Alberta artists, Butler has kept busy participating in a week-long intensive music industry book camp to further her performance, songwriting, marketing and business skills, and is competing in showcase series where three winners will be selected to receive cash prizes.
She’s also been writing.
“I pretty well have an album written and ready to go,” she said. “I just have to win that money in the Project Wild and put that album out.”
Since last fall, Butler has been travelling the United States where she’s connecting with other musicians and gaining various influences.
“My brand new stuff is a good representation of my sound right now and where I’m at,” she said. “It’s always been country for me, but I’m definitely throwing a huge rock influence into my songs lately.”
Tickets to attend the Southern Alberta Music Festival range from $25 to $95. For more details or to purchase tickets visit aspencrossing.com/music-festival