A Hay River supergroup of sorts was thrown together for the sixth installment of the Hay Days festival on July 17 at the Fisherman’s Wharf.

Linda Duford, had been initially scheduled to play with her band The Sociables, but most members ended up out of town and unavailable.

As a result, she made some calls and gathered longtime Hay River veteran musicians Ron Karp, Mark Lyons, and Pat Coleman to play together.

Dubbed the River Crew, Duford said she was impressed by the unique opportunity for the group to play folkish-country music together for two 45-minute sets.

“What happened is we are all old friends and we have known each other and played in different incarnations of bands over the last 20 years,” she said.

“What we ended up having was a little bit of musical expertise from every little other band in town and it was almost like the Traveling Wilburys.

“We loved it. Loved it. Oh my god, we loved it.”

Although she has played the festival every year and is a “regular local” she said her enthusiasm was different and she was highly impressed with organizers and the overall atmosphere.

With fishing boats coming in and out of the river and trains and tankers nearby, she said she really enjoyed the setting and is hopeful the festival can continue the setup in the future.

“When you are playing to a captive audience you don’t like to see people get up and leave, but in this case it didn’t really matter. People were upstairs there and having food and people coming and going and it was fine.

“It was not like three tables at a bar people where people are getting up and there was no pressure. It was just so much fun.”

Like other bands that have been on the festival schedule, Duford said this was one of the first times she has been able to play in the last year and a half due to COVID-19 related public health restrictions. Last month she did have one gig with The Sociables and has been providing fiddle lessons for children during the pandemic at her studio.

During the band’s performance, Duford’s band welcomed old friend and guest guitarist Leandre Beaulieu, from Fort Resolution to make the performance extra special.

The festival also featured Lisa Smith of Pink Poppy Designs as the Meet the Maker Artist. Smith offers contemporary beaded jewelry, which she started learning on her own to pass the time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

”I’m making hand made beaded earrings and I really started beading over the last winter during Covid and was one of the something to do when not much going on, so it is a new craft for me,” she said.

She said she doesn’t consider herself a “lifelong artist” in the same way that other vendors might, but she is enjoying the learning process of creating earrings that people might enjoy.

“I guess one of the things I feel I’m not a natural for putting together colours but I’m learning colour combinations and what best go together what people like,” she said. “I find it interesting to see what kind of earrings attract different people.”

Smith is expected to be at the pavilion over the summer three times and is looking forward to taking part in a festival stained art workshop and seeing her daughters perform as the Smith Sisters on Aug. 7.

Next Saturday’s festival (July 24) will feature The Mood Swings on the sound stage and Bev Tybring with her Sew Fine Yard and Design will be the Meet the Maker artist. She will also be holding a workshop.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. A through and through "County boy" from Prince Edward County, Ont., Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin...

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