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Northern Lights festival starts today, with director promising 'best festival ever'

With all-Canadian headliner lineup, NLFB starts tonight and runs to Sunday
northern lights festival 2016

The 47th edition of Northern Lights Festival Boréal, which starts in Bell Park this evening and runs until Sunday evening, is “going to be the best festival ever, and people should totally come.”

That glowing invitation was issued by Max Merrifield, the July 5-8 festival's artistic/executive director.

“We couldn't be more excited,” he said. “Oh man, there's so much going on this year.”

For starters, there's an all-Canadian lineup of headliners. 

That includes award-winning rock band Arkells on Thursday, banjoist and singer-songwriter Lisa LeBlanc on Friday, indie pop band Alvvays on Saturday and father-and-son team Bill and Joel Plaskett on Sunday.

(Check out our interviews with the Arkells and with Joel Plaskett).

Other acts among the 55 or so to be featured in this year's edition of Northern Lights are Cree and Dene pop and electronic music singer Iskwé and Canadian rock band Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (best known for penning the theme to “The Kids in the Hall”). 

Merrifield, who's fascinated with African music, has also programmed several African artists, including Nigerian Orlando Julius and Laetitia Zonzambé, who now lives in Canada but comes from Central African Republic.

“That's definitely deliberate,” Merrifield said. “We wanted to expose more people to really cool African music.”

There's also plenty of local content, including Guitars Alive Quartet, Matt Foy, JoPo & The Rize, Edouard Landry, Black Bull Moose Singers and BBRTHR. 

Two emerging acts also won a paid spot on the festival's lineup through the annual Meltdown Competition — Latin musician David Cordero, who's from Mexico and is a recent Sudbury resident, and alternative rock band The Keyframes. 

If you have young kids, bring them along too, as there's plenty of family-friendly entertainment. 

Sure to be a highlight of the family stage is veteran Canadian folk singer-songwriter Connie Kaldor, who's won Junos for her children's albums (she's on the family stage 2-3 p.m. Saturday and the main stage 7-8 p.m. Sunday).

Andrew Queen and the Campfire Crew — a family folk band — play the family stage Sunday from 1-2 p.m.

As anyone who's attended knows, Northern Lights festival isn't just about music, as there's also visual art, other types of performances and plenty of vendors to check out.

Among the more intriguing NLFB guests are a juggler of chainsaws and a soap bubble artist. Festival-goers have a chance to add a strand or two to a piece of fabric being created on a community loom.

Advanced tickets are on sale until the gates open Thursday evening. Advance weekend passes cost $90. Students and adults under 25 can get in for $60.

Anyone under the age of 14 gets free admission, and those who want to stay for just the afternoon (until 6 p.m.) can pay $15 at the gate.

Visit for tickets and a full schedule.


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