Winnipeg’s annual Folk Festival is an excellent way to spend five days doing one or any combination of the following: soaking in wonderful music, relaxing and partying. My experience this year was absolutely delightful. Here is why:
While every year is great year to pick some new talent to throw on your iPod, this year’s lineup was especially solid. The 2011 Winnipeg Folk Festival featured headlining artists like k.d. lang, Tegan and Sara and Blue Rodeo, which many attendees were already familiar with, and more alternative acts such as M. Ward and Dan Mangan. The Funky Meters also managed to work the crowd well at the Main Stage, putting on a party even for those less familiar with their funky sound.
However, that being said, the way to get the most out of a Folk Fest is to roll in with a blanket, find some shade, kick it in front of stage and let artists that you have never heard before blow you away.
This year my overall Folk Fest experience was better than last, mostly because I was able to stick with the right people. I set up in the campground with a few friends and our area grew and grew and was shared with some really awesome ladies and gents that we got to know as the week went on.
The overall sense of community felt at the Folk Fest is always wonderful. I’d say about 90 per cent of the people that attended the festival were outgoing, kind and willing to share tools, food and stories. If you forgot something or need to borrow something, it’s there.
That said, I chose to spend a lot of the time this year flying solo. It’s all too easy to get stuck in the campground waiting for people who are waiting on someone else and so on. You can end up missing a lot of the music — as I did last year — or maybe your musical tastes are just different from your friends.
The campground and partying
This is where Folk Fest comes to life. At night, costumes, decorations and glow sticks galore come out of nowhere! Drumming that happened periodically throughout the day is constantly audible at night and acts as a driving energy force.
Campers in the campground congregate towards an area of Birds Hill known as Pope’s Hill, where the majority of the magic happens. Here people play more drums, dance or just hang out. In my case, I donned more glow sticks and two light-up swords and had a battle with a friend wearing similar attire.
Both Friday and Saturday night there were fire spinning performances at Pope’s Hill. On the Saturday night, people began chanting “Northern lights, northern lights!” as very clear green auroras appeared over the heads of the dancers. As soon as everyone had noticed, cheers of delight erupted from the massive crowd.
While finding time to relax outside of Folk Fest may be difficult, it can be done almost anywhere during the festival. I spent many of the hot afternoons sitting under a tree reflecting or sleeping on a soft blanket enjoying the good life.