It was like any other Saturday night: the plans were to go to the bar, have drinks, dance, chat with friends and go home. But somewhere through the night things got screwed up. While at the bar a friend of mine got into a fight with his girlfriend; he stormed out and I followed. The next thing I knew we had abandoned our significant others at the bar and were driving to the campground at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
I had not attended a Folk Fest in years, let alone any kind of after-party. This was to be a first. Our arrival required about a mile long walk before we emerged into a military-like encampment of tents. That is where it began.
We wove our way in and out of the crowds surrounding the tents, all the while meeting new people and exchanging small talk along the way. So many new faces — so many faces I knew I’d never seen again and would be forgotten by the time it took to walk a few more steps.
The landscape writhed with people smiling, dancing, campfires and live bands. All I could think was: “Live bands on a fucking hill in the middle of nowhere? You’ve got to be kidding me!” I couldn’t believe we had chosen to be at the bar that night. This was the real party.
The night ended up a tumultuous one. We danced in the faint moonlight to live music until we just couldn’t dance anymore and eventually found ourselves sitting around a campfire with strangers who, for that night at least, were the closest of friends. We warmed ourselves around the fire, lost in conversation — my friend jamming on the bongos, another on guitar, just entranced. Soon passers-by joined our enormous group. One man said to another passing through, “Do you know how to play such and such a song?” Sure enough, he did. It was like a type of magic that added to the overall atmosphere. Dozens of people circling a giant flame like lost bugs able to hone in on the warmth and light.
That night I learnt about the “15-minute rule.” Apparently, if you’ve been talking with a stranger for fifteen minutes or more, you must introduce yourself. Now this rule may only have been invented by the people surrounding the campfire or it could have been a universal rule. I don’t know, but it’s a pretty fucking cool rule, one of inclusion rather than segregation.
Somewhere in the night we discovered that all vehicles in the general parking area would be towed away. In a mad dash we said our goodbyes and bolted for the bushes. Luckily, we managed to make it to the car before any disaster struck.
The night seemed to end quickly but it was one we wouldn’t soon forget. We were nocturnal animals celebrating, screaming into the night, howling at the moon. It was a night that proved to us that the night-life of the city could never compare to the wild life of the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
So if you haven’t already, go. Experience the festival campground for yourself, if only once. Actually pay to stay for the weekend or just attend the festival and support the Folk Fest. You’ll be glad you did, because there’s nothing quite like celebrating when you’re with thousands of your closest friends — and no bar can ever compare to that.