Fashion on the Rocks


Folk weekend showcases Yellowknifers’ unique fashion sense

by Laura Wright

Short jean shorts, a bright turquoise Hawaiian-style shirt, and loads of turquoise jewelry – Arthur Boutilier (above) is a common sight at Yellowknife’s annual Folk on the Rocks music festival.

When asked to describe his particular festival style, Boutilier said it’s not all that different from what he wears anywhere else in Yellowknife.

“But what I do is I concentrate it all on the one weekend because one of the things is the passion that we have, trying to capture the energy that is Folk on the Rocks. I really giv’r,” he says with a laugh.

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Maybe it’s the long, cold winters where everyone is so bundled up that it’s tough to distinguish between one parka and the next. Or maybe the summer sunlight makes us all a little giddy.

But people really break out their individual style during this jam-packed July weekend, and every year, a few well-known characters wander the festival in grand form.

Boutilier is one of them. He and his wife Dale have been going for about 20 years, and can be seen snapping photos of everything, sometimes even wearing matching yellow sweaters. But he and his wife are just two of many with a kind of Folk on the Rocks ritual, especially when it comes to what they wear.

In all her 22 years, Nicole Garbutt has only missed one year due to what she describes as “some kind of teenage angst phase.” Excluding that blip, she can’t wait for the day she can wear her designated ‘Folk’ dress.

The purple and yellow sundress is a perfect fit, Garbutt says. For about five years now, she’s made a point of wearing it for at least one day of the festival.

“It has some ruching along the bottom that I’ve had to re-sew multiple times already,” she says. “I’ve made an effort to maintain it so I guess I’ll probably continue to wear it for quite a while.”

Garbutt’s not quite sure why the festival seems to affect people the way it does.

“People love it so much and get so excited about it, so to have something that’s kind of symbolic or synonymous with it – I just think it makes a lot of sense in peoples’ minds,” she says.

Every year since he can remember, Brendan Callas, 25, has gone to the festival with his family.

His particular tradition began eight or nine years ago. He was in a band with friends Walter Girrior and Bryce Styan when they won a competition to play at the festival.

“And my mom, she was so excited for me and she said, ‘let’s go out and buy you a new outfit for your show that weekend.’ That’s how it started and now every summer after that I’m lucky enough to manage to find a way to play Folk or be a part of it in some way. And we always went out a week before Folk to buy me a new shirt to wear that weekend,” says Callas.

When Callas was a teen, the Folk weekend was the one time a year he would let his mom buy him clothes. Now, he’s happy to keep the tradition going.

“I’m not usually a superstitious person or somebody that does something like that over and over again, but at Folk I always just seem to want to keep the good times going. I do it to make sure the sun comes out every year,” he says.

Boutilier likens what people wear to the festival to what they would bring to a potluck – maybe not the most extravagant or flashy dish, but something they’re confident making and that they’re known for. He said it brings on good energy and a celebration in the city.

“Running into friends, the energy of the music, the weather is beautiful and great and sunny,” he says. “You sort of feel carefree and fancy-free and you just sort of party.”

This year’s Folk on the Rocks music festival is happening July 19-22. Visit for all the details.

Tips for FOTR newbies

With help from Festival Coordinator Pearl Rachinsky

Prepare for the weather – it doesn’t rain much in Yellowknife, but for some reason, there’s almost always at least a sprinkling of rain at Folk. It can also get cold at night, so bring a raincoat or sweatshirt. Matching sweaters à-la Arthur and Dale Boutilier is encouraged.

Bring a chair or blanket –  so you can sit on the sand.

Shoes – the whole place is sand with the occasional rock and pine needle, so wear something comfortable. Heels or dress shoes are probably not the most practical thing.

Stock Bug Spray – Yellowknife has a bunch o’ mosquitoes, so be prepared.

Use Sunscreen – after spending hours in the beer garden, you can very easily forget how the unforgiving sun is burning you to a crisp.

Drink Water – you don’t want to be that person who gets dehydrated and can’t last till the last act.


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