Backwards Day at Ness Creek

Tessa Holloway
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Backwards Ness is all turned around in more ways than one.

Musicians play backwards, to crowds of dancers swinging around on the wooden main stage, but it's also a throwback to a time when the festival was a much more intimate affair.

There were about 150 people at Saturday's event, compared to the 3,000-strong crowd at the site's main event, the Ness Creek Music Festival. Backwards Ness is a much more laid-back weekend, and it's that fact that drew many music-lovers to Big River on the weekend.

Backwards Day at Ness Creek

Backwards Ness is all turned around in more ways than one.

Musicians play backwards, to crowds of dancers swinging around on the wooden main stage, but it's also a throwback to a time when the festival was a much more intimate affair.

There were about 150 people at Saturday's event, compared to the 3,000-strong crowd at the site's main event, the Ness Creek Music Festival. Backwards Ness is a much more laid-back weekend, and it's that fact that drew many music-lovers to Big River on the weekend.

"Some people actually like Backwards Ness more than Ness Creek, because they've been coming for such a long time they remember what it was like (at Ness Creek)," said organizer Kerri Fischer, who was also singing with the Campfire Girls on stage. "The first year of Ness Creek there was 150 people ... (and) we didn't reach 1,000 for a long time."

The weekend of games, dance and music by the likes of Saskatchewan roots singer Little Miss Higgins has been running for five years. It started when volunteers for the main festival kicked it off as a fundraiser to make up to the Ness Creek Cultural and Recreational Society for accidentally going over budget.

Since then, the festival hasn't exactly made money, but organizers have stuck with it out for a "love of music," as site manager Gord Olson put it.

There are plenty of plans for the site over the coming years.

The Ness Creek society board approved $15,000 for upgrades, including sewage and garbage collection improvements to help handle the masses that descend on the site every year.

The society also has a horsehair dance floor it bought from a Royal Canadian Legion hall in Saskatoon that was being torn down.

They want to set that up in a new year-round building, where dances and events could be held regardless of weather. The building will be called the Jack Millikin Centre, named after a musician sometimes referred to as the grandfather of Ness Creek.

"It would be great for not just old-time dance, but any kind of dance, from ballet to modern," said Cathy Sproule, who is on several boards related to the festival site.

The price tag for the building is $500,000, though they're hoping to have fundraising finished within a year.

"We'd like to see the place used every day of the year. That's the goal," she said.

As for new programming, Sproule said the ski trails have been expanded, but mostly they are just trying to grow what already exists.

"There's nothing new as far as programming goes on the horizon, there's just more," she said.

tholloway@paherald.sk.ca

Organizations: Campfire Girls, Creek Cultural and Recreational Society, Royal Canadian Legion Jack Millikin Centre

Geographic location: Big River, Saskatchewan, Saskatoon

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