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 By Howard Campbell—-

 Top: Beres Hammond—
Bottom: Calgary Reggae Festival co-founder Leo Cripps with Chinese reggae band, Long Shen Dao.—-

CALGARY was not on the radar of most Jamaicans until their bobsled team became sensations at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in that Canadian city.

But since 2003, the Calgary Reggae Festival (CRF) has helped expose Jamaican culture to the province of Alberta, home to a small Jamaican community.

Leo Cripps, a Jamaican, is a co-founder of the CRF which has featured top Jamaican acts like Beres Hammond, Freddie McGregor and Third World, as well as homegrown reggae artists and bands like Long Shen Dao from China.

“As set out in our mandate, providing a performance stage in Western Canada where we can showcase our ‘Canadian’-grown talent alongside some of the world’s best has been the most rewarding of all we have accomplished so far,” Cripps told the Jamaica Observer.

Freddie McGregor

Freddie McGregor

“Prior to ReggaeFest, it would be near impossible for the general public to experience the talents of Canadian artists such as Steele, Exco Levi or Sonia Collymore on any stage in this part of the country.

“The Portland-born Cripps said the CRF consistently attracts 6,000 fans annually. He noted, however, that he and his colleagues do not use spectator numbers as a yardstick for progress.

“If we look at how far we have travelled with six people and $600, then we have superseded every expectation. We have created a world-class festival featuring some of the best acts from around the globe, with one of the best volunteer production teams,” he stated.


“Considering some of the negative elements that have faced this industry over the years, we have represented reggae music in the highest regard.” Cripps, 53, migrated to Calgary 30 years ago. He hosted a reggae show on the University of Calgary’s CJSW 90.9 FM radio station, before helping to start the Calgary Reggae Festival Society which organised the CRF.

While not as big as the country or pop acts who pass through Calgary, Cripps said citizens in his chilly adopted hometown have taken to the CRF which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2012.

“There are so many choices for summer entertainment around but so many people tell us they stay in the city for the festival. ReggaeFest has become one of the city’s favourite summer events, so I’d say, yes, they have warmed up to reggae.”

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