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2023 NSMZ Music Festival of the Year: The Northern Lights Bluegrass and Old Tyme Music Festival

Updated: Jan 5

by Scott Roos

photos by Scott and Deanna Roos

Michael Taylor of Five Guys Named Dave played a high energy tweener set at the festival this year. (photo by Scott Roos)

Our 2023 “Festival of the Year” award winners The Northern Lights Bluegrass and Old Tyme Music Festival do their utmost to ensure that their event is as family friendly as possible. Held on the Ness Creek grounds, throughout the weekend, there’s jam sessions, workshops, dances, great food, and plenty of good cheer.

In terms of the festival’s lineup, the headliners are usually of international renown. This year was no exception with the amazing Martha Spencer and the Wonderland Band and The Welldrinkers headlining. Spencer, with her more traditional approach, The Welldrinkers with a more “newgrass” appeal, on top of the camp instructor "supergroup" Happy Trails, Prospector made this year’s festival a real treat. There's also usually a few more "folksy" acts that perform. At the same time, the festival is also committed to emerging local talent within the genre. So there’s a bit of a “paying it forward” approach at the same time. In turn, it’s reciprocal as all the artists involved are very approachable and willing to share special moments with their fans - both new and old. 

The festival itself is preceded by a weeklong music camp that many of the artists involved in playing later that weekend are part of as instructors. For a fully immersive bluegrass experience participation in said camp is strongly encouraged but by no means a requirement. The camp acts as a springboard for those wishing to build upon or even develop a love for the genre. In fact, several “name” Saskatchewan artists like Kasia Thorlakson, Jaxon Lalonde, Ellen Froese and Jake Vaadeland, have grown up attending the camp and later gone onto amazing things within the Saskatchewan music scene. 

So, in short, the festival and, by extension, the camp, is a very worthy and deserving winner of “Festival of the Year”. Family friendly entertainment, within the gorgeous natural setting of the boreal forest, enables those in attendance to unplug and take a deep dive into the very exciting world of bluegrass music. It’s a fantastic event worthy of recognition. 

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