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Song and dance at 15-day Kenora festival

The 79th Kenora District Festival of the Arts will open April 6 with dance at Beaver Brae Secondary School.
Edward Franko, far right, other KDFA volunteers and Mayor Andrew Poirier, second from left, hold the festival's banner in Kenora in March 2024.

KENORA – A 15-day arts festival will open its 79th edition with dance at a public school.

Dance performances are set to start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 6, in Beaver Brae Secondary School’s theatre room.

Music, visual arts, speech/dramatic programming and more dance at venues in Kenora and Dryden follow in the subsequent two weeks of the Kenora District Festival of the Arts.

“It’s a busy festival,” KDFA president Edward Franko said with a chuckle.

Franko and a small volunteer committee have put together what he described in an interview Monday as “a nurturing, mentorship-based festival” for young artists.

Though this is festival No. 79, its origins go back many more years, he noted.

There was a gap during the COVID pandemic when festivals weren’t held in 2020 and 2021, and there was a bigger gap during and after the Second World War. So, really, the festival is about 90 years old.

“It’s a vibrant part of the community,” said Franko. “We’re really happy that it’s still going on.”

Young artists in the region “really look forward to it,” he said.

There are trophies, he said, “but it’s the experience that’s the main reward.”

Franko came to Kenora from the Greater Toronto Area in 2018. His own arts background is in singing and directing opera and musical theatre.

He and friends produced nine “opera on the lake” videos featuring Kenora scenery during the pandemic with local videographer Matt Kennedy. They can be found on YouTube.

The KDFA flag will fly at Kenora’s city hall this month, which city council has declared Kenora District Festival of the Arts Month, as it did last year.

The city appreciates the venerable festival’s “contributions to arts and culture in Kenora,” Mayor Andrew Poirier told Newswatch.

“I know there are some individuals on council who feel very strongly about the arts, and I do too,” he said.

Coun. Lisa Moncrief, a KDFA volunteer who competed in the festival as a child, is among those arts-supporting council members.

The schedule and syllabus for the 79th Kenora District Festival of the Arts can be found at

Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After working at newspapers across the Prairies, Mike found where he belongs when he moved to Northwestern Ontario.
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