Whether travellers are interested in joining the fiddling or jigging competitions, taking music and dance workshops or just taking in the nightly concerts, the John Arcand Fiddle Fest is one of those events that’s impossible not to enjoy.
Seven km west of Saskatoon (but about a 20-minute drive from the downtown core) is Windy Acres, host property of the festival. Vicki and John Arcand’s private acreage welcomes people from all over the world, most who come every year.
There’s a playground area for children, a large parking lot, a small shopping area (only sponsors and musicians sell their ware, so there’s high quality items but it’s not a glorified market) and a concession with hamburgers, bannock, drinks, homemade pies and nightly dinner specials.
Fiddling Concerts and Competitions
As the name attests to, the main component, fiddling, is the heart of the festival. Métis fiddler John Arcand leads the crowd favourite John Arcand and Friends Concert on Saturday night. Other music includes the popular old time dances where everyone packs the dance floor to live music.
During the day, fiddlers vie for the prize money as they compete in front of the crowd. Underneath the large main tent, the chairs surrounding the stage are almost always full day and night.
Métis Red River Jigging Competition
Jigging goes hand in hand with the fiddler’s music and competitors take the stage one by one to show the judges how many traditional Métis Red River jigging steps they can do in a row. As with the fiddling, the top prize is $500 CDN.
Fiddling and Jigging Workshops
Another much-loved part of the John Arcand Fiddle Fest is the workshops. Included in the price of admission, visitors can take fiddling, piano, guitar and jigging workshops. Those who are particularly inspired can even register for the competitions themselves (there are no registration fees).
It’s nice to stay at a downtown Saskatoon hotel in order to have a few meals that aren’t concession food. The Hilton Garden (90 22nd Street East, 306-244-2311 / 1-800-445-8667) is the closest hotel on the way in and out of downtown. Or, drive the extra few blocks to the waterfront and book the queen of the city, the Delta Bessborough (601 Spadina Crescent East, 306-244-5521 / 1-888-890-3222).
There are also special rates for festivalgoers at the Saskatoon Heritage Inn (102 Cardinal Crescent, 306-665-8121 / 1-888-888-4374) near the airport.
For those who don’t need a hotel room and want to save a few bucks, there is an RV park at Windy Acres, along with room for tents (both have free access). Many people take advantage of these options