Exhibition Park In Canberra (EPIC) will come ablaze with lights, food, and music from Thursday 29 March to Monday 2 April. You might see a parade of jugglers and acrobats or stumble across a late-night cider garden, and you will definitely see some incredible bands. The occasion: the National Folk Festival.

Director Pam Merrigan describes the festival as having “a big heart and a sturdy heart”. It’s been an institution for more than fifty years, and this year marks its 52nd birthday – and the festival shows no sign of slowing down.  Some of the acts coming along have been visiting the festival for twenty years; others are brand spanking new.

Getting in touch with the festival’s big, sturdy heart will mean something different to everyone. With a runsheet of some of the best new names in indie music (think All Our Exes Live in Texas and Amistat) and the famous Session Bar open until 4am, festivalgoers can party till they drop. On the other hand, with festival days kicking off bright and early at 8.30am and kids’ events like craft and maypole dancing, you can bring along the family for a day of offbeat adventures. Truly intrepid folk fans can do both, with extensive camping facilities provided so you can get the most out of your weekend.

Score a plate of cheesey French potatoes from the food stalls, warm your hands by a campfire over a cup of traditional chai, then wander along to learn about making paper lanterns, and get your face painted if you’re feeling bold. The Festival is full of opportunities to get involved in the action, with impromptu a capella recitals, dancing workshops, circus training and mural painting, along with whatever weird and wonderful experiences you might stumble across in a tent in a hidden corner.

The heart of the festival is all about celebrating and preserving folk art and traditions, so classic country, bluegrass and roots acts abound. There are plenty of opportunities to sit back and take in more diverse sights and sounds, too: you can catch a history lesson from visiting indigenous performers, take in a circus show in the big top, or sit in on a spoken word competition. A highlight will be getting to watch whip-smart country poets swap burns with slam poets at Bush Versus Slam Poets.

Plus, you can enjoy everything the festival has to offer with a clean conscience, in the knowledge that OzHarvest is on hand to redistribute leftovers from the delicious food stalls to people in need. The organisers are also taking good care of the environment, with $1 from every program sale goes straight to Greening Australia’s habitat restoration projects in nearby Gundaroo.

Snag a ticket here and find the program here to start planning your weekend. For those out of town, make sure to check out camping options.