A five-day whirlwind event that draws in an eclectic range of folks, mixing together hippies, families, old time rock lovers, young partiers, hipsters and die-hard indie fans in one space, results in the most anticipated yearly event in Manitoba’s music scene – the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
The festival literally has something for everyone. Whether you’re there to drink your ass off and barely make it out of the five days alive or to camp in the quiet while taking in as many acts as possible or a mix of both.
Basically, Folk Fest will not disappoint you.
“Our recipe of musical discovery, big prairie skies at beautiful Birds Hill Park, camping and hot summer days seems to work,” boasts Chris Frayer, the festival’s artistic director.
Its ranking up in the big leagues as a member of the oldest large outdoor festivals in North America has put the event in the same group as Newport Folk Festival, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Mariposa Folk Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival and Philadelphia Folk Festival.
Frayer, a Folk Fest veteran who counts this year’s involvement as his ninth, describes memories from his first year on the team.
“My first year programming will always be special. Everything from moving the monitor lines back again and again so Ricky Skaggs could keep playing in a downpour on Thursday night, to Emmylou Harris and Daniel Lanois singing ‘The Maker’ in 80 [km/h] winds on Sunday night.”
The summer affair has come a long way since its establishment in 1974.
“It has evolved to include more sub-genres of music and has even included non-folk music that still conveys the values and quality of music people have come to enjoy at the festival. [It] has grown sustainably in terms of audience size and, as a result, volunteerism has sky rocketed.”
The festival creates opportunities for some of Manitoba’s finest acts. Citing Del Barber as an example of this, Frayer explains that the artist met Billy Bragg at a past festival, eventually giving the chance for him to open at one of Bragg’s shows in Chicago.
“It helps them to mingle and collaborate with artists who they may admire and can learn from. It means they can likely get gigs at other folk festivals in Canada. Some of our local artists met their heroes at the festival and went on to tour with them.”
Local artists who may just relish this same type of opportunity this summer include Oh My Darling, the Magnificent 7s, Del Barber, Madame Diva, Nathan Rogers, Peter Paul Van Camp, Seanster and the Monsters, the JD Edwards Band and the Poor Fools Comedy.
While Frayer doesn’t play favourites on the 2013 lineup, the amount of notable out of town acts is impressive: City and Colour, Patrick Watson, Cold Specks, Serena Ryder, Aidan Knight, Xavier Rudd and the Avett Brothers are just a few of the artists to grace Manitoba’s presence in July.
It’s not hard to sing praise of the prairie’s folk fest and Frayer is no exception.
“It’s a festival that is good enough to exist in any larger market but we have it right on our door step in a relatively sparsely populated province. There is also nothing else quite like it during the summer.”
The Winnipeg Folk Festival runs from July 10-14 at Birds Hill Park.
By Rachel WoodManitoba, MB, Winnipeg