Festival-goers light up during first night at Calgary folk festival

Ben Deere is seen smoking in the cannabis consumption area during the 40th Annual Calgary Folk Music Festival at Prince’s Island Park on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Brendan Miller/Postmedia

As Thursday afternoon turned into the evening, the crowd at the cannabis consumption site at the Calgary Folk Music Festival slowly grew larger.

It’s the first festival in the city that’s had a designated area for smoking cannabis, although the space is tucked away in the far east corner of Prince’s Island Park and enclosed with a tall fence covered with black tarps. Some people sharing a joint with their friends before heading to the next concert said they felt the area was too distant.

“We’re as far away from everything as possible, as far away from the activities as we could be. But I think it’s good that it’s here rather than not,” said Darrell Hartsook, who will be performing at the festival with his band, Lab Coast, later this weekend.

“It’s comfortable now but it’s not as busy yet. This space could become too crowded on Saturday afternoon.”

The cannabis consumption area is pictured during the 40th Annual Calgary Folk Music Festival at Prince’s Island Park on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Hartsook, who has been attending the folk fest for many years, is happy to see organizers provide a legal space but said it’s silly the area is enclosed when it’s the same air on the other side of the fence.

The air inside the fenced site was thick with smoke and there was a distinct smell of cannabis in the area surrounding it, which includes one of the music tents. The smell grew fainter farther into the festival grounds — avoidable by those who would prefer to steer clear.

The consumption site is being monitored by security, checking each person’s ID as they enter. Four20 Premium Market has designed the interior with tables, chairs and hammocks, creating a comfortable environment. As smokers lit up the cannabis they brought, Four20 representatives were discussing cannabis education with people and handing out complimentary packs of gum.

“This is a really historic thing for our city and the industry, so we are happy to be a partner with it. It’s been getting busier and busier and it’s only the first day,” said Amber Craig, vice-president of marketing with Four20.

Craig said her team had already received several comments about the site being difficult to find.

“But we’ve made it as welcoming and friendly as possible once you get inside,” said Craig.

Faye Horvath and Chelsey Coulson are seen smoking in the cannabis consumption area during the 40th Annual Calgary Folk Music Festival at Prince’s Island Park on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Brendan Miller/Postmedia

One group of friends passing a single joint said the location could deter people from smoking in the designated area, opting instead to go down by the river, which was a common spot to light up before legalization.

Cara Piskopos-Petrucci said the beer gardens and tobacco-smoking areas are much more open and closer to the main concert stages.

“It’s nice that recreational cannabis has a place alongside alcohol and tobacco, because now that it’s legal it should be no different,” said Piskopos-Petrucci, who was there with friends.

Alexis Woodley, who was watching her friend’s kids at a playground at the festival, said the cannabis site was a win-win for everyone.

“It’s better to have it in a situated place because people will do it anyway here. So let’s have it in a concentrated area so families and people who want to be away from it, can,” said Woodley.

sbabych@postmedia.com

Twitter: @BabychStephanie

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