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Edmonton Folk Festival director Terry Wickham, right, with soul-gospel singer Solomon Burke.

The Globe and Mail

In Between the Acts, The Globe and Mail takes a look at how artists manage their time before and after a creative endeavour.

Terry Wickham, the artistic director and general manager of the Edmonton Folk Festival for three decades, talks about his off-season activities, after the patchouli oil is put away and the drum circles are quieted.

Everybody thinks you're saving for a rainy day, but actually it's wind that causes problems for outdoor festivals. Last summer, we had a gust coming in front of a storm. We were halfway into our Thursday night schedule. We had no choice but to evacuate. It was a $110,000 direct hit in ticket refunds, with another $10,000 or $15,000 in miscellaneous losses. But it won't affect us for 2018. We've had 23 years of sellouts. We'll be okay.

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After the festival, I'll go on holidays. Then in September and October, there's a lot of listening involved. I've been working hard on it, but I'm about 120 e-mails behind. We turn down 100 acts for every one we book.

The Western folk festivals get together. We discuss shared interests. We met in Winnipeg in October. The weather was nice, so we had our meetings outside. The fiddler Ashley MacIsaac walked by. He was playing with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

I'm 29 years in with the Edmonton Folk Festival. We're constantly looking to improve. At this point, it's mostly fine tuning. For example, we're buying into a warehouse. It will allow us to buy all our own tents, instead of renting them. That keeps your costs down.

A lot of people in my position attend the annual Americana Music Festival and Conference in September, but I tend not to go to the industry events. I find it to be too much talking and not enough listening. The music is what is important. That's what keeps people coming back here.

There's a bit of a shift going on. Instead of people buying four-day passes, they're buying one or two days. I think it's baby boomers running out of energy. Also, younger people don't have four days off. A lot of them are working two jobs. So, that's a challenge. But we'll rise to it. It's not a problem.

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