Nestled about 10 kilometers off Highway 59 lies land on the Roseau River that for 362 days of the year functions as a heritage campsite, developed and run by the passion of Georges Beaudry.
The other three days of the year, amongst the artifacts and the natural beauty, it hosts Manitoba’s scrappiest music festival and self-proclaimed ‘best time you will have all summer.’ The clear lake is filled with bodies of sweaty festival-goers and lined by hopeful fishers participating in the festival’s namesake fishing derby.
Rainbow Trout Music Festival and Fishing Derby is a completely volunteer-organized and run labour of love. Organizers meet in friend’s living rooms, backyards, and the local Legion. The money for equipment and land rental is raised by date auctions, rummage sales, and a baseball tournament, all of which are part of the grassroots charm of the festival.
Born out of the determination of just a few friends and about 50 attendees in its first year, the Rainbow Trout Music Festival (RTMF) has been growing exponentially ever since. This year it boasted over 400 guests, 22 bands, and 57 volunteers over three days.
“I have seen tremendous cooperation between friends and strangers who are all like minded and enthusiastic,” said volunteer coordinator Sara Atnikov.
The elements of RTMF are simple: friends, good music, beautiful scenery, and water. This year’s festival undoubtedly featured one of the most eclectic lineups of musical acts, including with a variety hip-hop artists, singer-songwriters, indie rock bands, and experimental funk all sharing the same stage over three days.
This year, now the fourth annual, the festival has come a long way from its humble beginnings in terms of infrastructure but RTMF still maintains all of its heart and the scrappy DIY mentality that has been present ever since its creation.
“To me it’s about the first year — how it was all so thrown together and about how it has grown into its full potential without losing any of that fun-ness,” says Reesa Atnikov, who has been involved with RTMF since its first year.
Despite its successes, the fourth annual RTMF had to overcome a number of obstacles that emerged in 2011 in order to proceed. The Reynolds Pond site where it had traditionally been held was inaccessible due to a backcountry fire ban and an alternate plan to relocate was squashed by the municipality where they desired to re-set up camp. However, this turned out to be just the push organizers needed to take the steps to make Rainbow Trout a permanent fixture in the Manitoba Summer Festival lineup.
Organizers Ben Jones, Will Belford, and Jamil Mahmood underwent small business and co-op training with SEED, obtained insurance and permits, and secured a land partner. Despite its rogue nature and questionable legality in the past, this year the fest, as the tickets cheekily state: ‘seems legit.’ All that extra work has been well worth it as this year was the biggest Rainbow Trout event to date.
“It’s a festival that doesn’t focus on money, but focuses on the music — pure and simple,” says four-year volunteer and part of the organizing committee Jamil Mahmood.
It’s a good thing that Rainbow Trout is here to stay.