Another fantastic weekend of music and performances is in the books for the Manitou Beach Busking Festival. The resort village was bustling with visitors gypsying from performance location to location on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

The performances were as varied as the artists and their backgrounds. There were local performers and those who came from further afield like Winnipeg and Swift Current. Long time favourites like ShuBoy and his blues tunes on slide dobro joined with newcomers like Martina, who has performed on stages and on the streets as a busker. It’s a return of sorts for the artist.  

“I started playing guitar and writing songs about eight years ago, doing open mics late at night,” revealed Martina who hails from Saskatoon. “I spent five years out here at Camp Easter Seal, so when I saw they were doing the Busking Festival, I had to come. I think busking is a great way to get over your fears, not worry about being exactly perfect. I appreciate all the venue support, the volunteers and the committee for doing this. It’s a great learning experience.” 

All the performers played “for the hat,” a time honoured tradition with busking. Busking has a long tradition across cultures, and the beachside resort captured the spirit of patrons wandering through a music and arts retreat to discover someone new around each corner. 

In some cases, those busking faces were familiar ones – like the Rockin’ Robins who come from Manitou Beach and nearby Watrous. Janet Fedor says this edition of the Robins is the fourth trio she has formed in the last 35 years. It’s a labour of love for the ladies who approach their performances with zest and great humour. This incarnation of the group has been together for just two years with a new member who has never performed in an ensemble until this.  

“We perform a lot,” said Janet, “In fact, we perform in a lot of long-term care facilities. If people have forgotten who they’ve been married to for 56 years or forgotten the names of their children, they know every word they ever sang. And so we sing the old songs.” 

Over the years, as time has marched on and newer songs have emerged as classics, the group has “updated” its repertoire to match the times.  

In addition to the musical acts, magician David Shields from Saskatoon wowed audiences with amazing sleight of hand and a brilliant finale extracting a marked $20 bill, previously purloined from an audience member, from an intact kiwi.  

Other buskers who have been here from the start included Bruce Rawling with a mix of soulful originals like “Throwing Wishes in an Empty Sea” and time-honoured gems like Tom Petty’s “Free Falling.” Also on hand was Brian Paul DG from Saskatoon who recently performed at the Carlton Trail Ski Clubhouse concert.  

On Saturday night, the buskers gathered at the Little Manitou Art Gallery for the traditional jam session, a fan-favourite at the event. Brian Paul DG anchored the jam along with Rawling, Bongo Bob on percussion, Humboldt’s own Yanna, up and coming singer Rein, ShuBoy on slide and a host of rotating contributors.  

A highlight of the evening included the awarding of a recording session at Skull Creek Studios to long time festival and Saskatchewan musical mentor Brian Paul DG 

A special surprise guest performer, revered guitar and blues veteran Jack Semple jumped up on stage and tore it up with classics like “Stand by Me.” The parachute performance led to a blues tour-de-force merging the combined skills of a unique set of artists in a Saskatchewan “who’s who” of buskers and recording artists.  

Organizer Sarah McKen was delighted at the response, both of performers and attendees, at this year’s festival. A tradition that started off small, engineered by Manitou Beach local Scott Thoen, has evolved into one of Saskatchewan’s premier summertime musical treats.