A Postcard From Vance

A postcard that arrived in the mail last week has finally prompted me to get back into writing on my blog. Yes, that’s long overdue. I hope this will be a catalyst. Perhaps I’ll go back and write about other events I’ve not written about. Perhaps. Only time will tell.

Here’s what this postcard from Vance said:

Short and sweet
The front of the postcard shows the first transcontinental airmail flight.



Vance Gilbert is a talented American musician with a great sense of humor (note the non-Canadian spelling; that’s for you Vance) and the skills to own the stage when he’s performing (see him if you get the chance!). Vance and I don’t know each other. Andrea & I have seen him perform once. And it was that performance in 2011 that triggered this postcard arriving. Read on to unravel the story-line.

The Package

The thing that prompted Vance to send a card was an odd package that he wouldn’t have been expecting (although he may have wondered when someone asked for his address last year). It was unmarked and contained no note or explanation. I didn’t think it would need one and I guess I was right.

Addressed to Vance, with only a return address. Wrapped in newspaper.

The package went in the mail late February after I had the package contents, and the intention of sending it, since last September. My friend Lesley Marie (part of the festival that I saw Vance perform at) was able to contact him directly and got me his mailing address months ago. Back then his reply to her was: “5) wherever will I put that [….]?”. Perhaps timing is everything.

I wrapped it up, addressed it and finally sent it off.

By now some people reading this will already know what was in it. Hopefully you’re already smiling if you do. Perhaps even looking over at your version of it? I’ll keep pulling at the threads of the story without revealing the contents just yet for the benefit of those who don’t.

The Festival

The festival I saw Vance perform at in 2011 was the Shelter Valley Folk Festival. That was the second year Andrea & I went to SVFF. In 2010 I was there as a volunteer because all of the camping tickets were sold out and we wanted to be able to camp in our new-to-us Westfalia with some VW friends who put the idea into our heads. I’ve volunteered every year since with the exception of the year I broke my neck (search “halo” in my blog if you want to know about that).

SVFF is known for a number of things, not the least of which are the stellar line-ups they’ve had over the years. It was also known for one very specific and unique theme. A quirky one.

One of the hand-painted, ubiquitous, and popular Green Signs

While Greg created an annual edition of the street signs for Westfalia Way on behalf of us VW camper folks (which you’ll find as stickers on musicians’ instrument cases if they’ve performed at SVFF or Mariposa Folk Festival) it’s the hand-painted Green Signs that are the link for all of this.

The 2017 festival was (sadly) the final edition. I know I’ll really miss it come late August. It was always held on Labour Day weekend and for years I spent the week before helping with setting it all up. I know there’s a whole community that grew up around it that will miss it. The final campfire on the Sunday night was very emotional. In fact, I haven’t written on my blog since being there so perhaps this is actually part of my healing process. I hadn’t even thought about that aspect until I went looking for photos and a blog entry from the festival. You’ll find previous years if you search for “SVFF” or “Shelter Valley Folk Festival” but my last entry here was from the eclipse which was a couple of weeks before the final festival.

The Final Festival

I did produce a video using photos from around the nightly campfires, using only music recorded at the campfire. A bit nostalgic… lots of folks I think of as family in those photos. Including actual family:  my son Steffan and his lovely partner Saba. You’ll hear them playing their Merlins at the opening of the video and there’s a shot of them on the SVFF main stage to end it all. I’ve gotta say… it gave me goosebumps listening to this video again. To everyone in the video: thank you for the parts you’ve played in making SVFF happen for all the years it did.


Green Signs

So… 2017 was the final edition. And the Green Signs are the connection in this tale. But what does that have to do with Vance Gilbert? Well…

Back in 2011 when Vance played at SVFF he did a bunch of amazing songs playing with themes like “if Billy Holiday sang My Bad” and “if Aaron Neville sang Unfamiliar Moon” as well as his own original songs. He also did one other impromptu song on the main stage. Here’s that video (crappy quality but it’s all I have):

Think you can guess what was in that package now if you didn’t already know?

The Final SVFF

When the festival decided it was not going to continue there were a number of things that had been accumulated over the years – bought and made – to sell or otherwise distribute. Kitchen equipment from the hospitality tent is an example. And Green Signs are another. One year someone actually counted them… I can’t find the post where the number was revealed but I think it was around 450 (perhaps someone can correct me on the number). In any event there are a lot of Green Signs. The signs on the road leading to the festival was a story many people know. One that Vance turned into a song! And those signs are now living with lots of the SVFF family as they were offered up for people to take (donations were appreciated). So as the festival wound down I thought: “one of these has to go to Vance”.

The Package Contents

Yup… one Green Sign. As I said, no note or explanation. Just a green sign that says “Folk Festival – Oh So Close” (the others are my keepsakes):

Folk Festival – Oh So Close

I mentioned I volunteered at SVFF. My role evolved into being responsible for setting up the stages which I did for a number of years. Steffan and Saba ended up being part of my team doing this too. The Village Stage was always a challenge to make happen. I’m sure they will never forget it! I certainly won’t. And that’s why that sign stayed with me. Along with one of the final SVFF Westfalia Way street signs.

Where Green Signs Live Now

Getting that postcard prompted me to want to tell this tale. It also prompted me to reach out to people and see where some of the signs have gone to. So I asked friends of SVFF via a FaceBook group and got a bunch of photos back. Thanks to all who contributed!

The Village Stage sign I kept will travel in my Westy camper (along with smaller Westfalia Way stickers on the windows). Here’s a gallery of photos from people who responded. As I hear back from more folks I’ll be happy to update this gallery.

3 Replies to “A Postcard From Vance”

  1. Thanks Peter, Green sign ” DRINKING WATER” pic to follow. Hope to see you folks this summer. Steve & Fran

    1. Peter Kraiker says: Reply

      Mariposa is on our calendar, hope to see you there! And you should make a point of thanking Al whenever you see him, He’s the man behind that drinking water station. And soooo much more.

  2. Kinda late, but our back fence has a green sign that says,

    Folk Festival
    2 kilometres
    Oh so close!

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