By Jordan Yeager
Camping festivals — because sometimes, we all need an excuse to go days on end without showering. Whether you’d rather spend the weekend on a muddy, dusty farm surrounded by people wearing onesies and sucking on soothers or bring your parents, nephew, and litter of puppies to camp in a clean, cool river-side RV, the coast-to-coast selection of festivals in Canada is unparalleled. While they might vary in content – some emphasize electronica, while others are exclusively metal – festival culture in general aims to foster a sense of family and give their guests a transcendent, ephemeral experience of feeling at home. Music, painting, yoga, performance art and a cozy, beer-stained tent to return to at the end of the night… what more could you need? (Sunscreen. The answer is sunscreen.)
July 4-7 on the North Country Fair festival grounds near Driftpile, AB
“Home is not a place, it’s a feeling.” Astral Harvest is more than just a music festival – their itinerary also features almost 20 conferences about topics ranging from beekeeping to cultural appropriation vs. appreciation to ayahuasca and Inka healing techniques (BYOA). There are yoga classes, fire shows, aerialists, and bubble blowing parties. Camping is first-come first-served, so if you’re bringing the whole family, arrive early and claim a plot on the quieter Family Camping site.
Winnipeg Folk Festival
July 11-14 at Birds Hill Provincial Park
Despite the name, Winnipeg Folk Festival hosts artists who play indie, electronic, pop, and a wide variety of other genres, too. They have Tarot readings, puppetry, an LED gallery and a costume booth to outfit you for the day. Kacey Musgraves is one of their headliners this year – don’t forget to wait until she says “yee” before you say “haw.”
Winnipeg Folk Festival is another contender that offers two campgrounds to suit your needs. The Festival Campground has room for 6,000 people and feels like a little commune, with everyone making art and friends between the tents. The Quiet Campground is a third of the size, so you’re covered whether you’d rather find your new best friends or get a good night’s sleep.
River & Sky Music/Camping Festival
July 18-21 in Sudbury, ON
Situated along the Sturgeon River, River & Sky works closely with locals to create a sustainable retreat to nature for festival-goers. This festival is a smaller one, and they believe that a smaller, more intimate experience is best both for the environment and for the visitors. The campground is situated in Fishers’ Paradise, a quiet haven outside West Nipissing, Ontario that grants visitors access not only to the river but also to a lake. Bring your kayaks, your donut-shaped floaties, and your pups, because River & Sky is one of few festivals that welcomes pets.
July 26-29 in Fredericton, NB
Future Forest doesn’t think of its guests as audience members, but rather as active participants in the creation of a communal experience. Hosted in a 200-acre wilderness preserve, the festival originally began in 2012 as a fundraiser for friend of the fest DJ Jay Hamilton when he was diagnosed with cancer. It’s this community vibe that they strive to recreate year after year; instead of corporate sponsors, they invite local artisans to sell their wares, from jewelry to clothing to handblown glass (anyone need a new pipe?).
August 9-12 at the Salmo River Ranch outside Nelson, BC
Shambhalove, Shambhalife – those who frequent Shambhala think of it as a second home. Every year, thousands of attendees flock to the farm for the electronic fest. Each of the festival’s six stages has its own stage director, ensuring that the universes they create will never be the same from one year to the next. Don’t forget a face mask – you will be breathing in dust and cow manure. Shambhala also stays away from corporate sponsors. For a festival that often sells out within minutes, it’s about as grassroots as you can get.
Shambhala is a lifestyle, and people who frequent the fest go all out for it every year. You want to paint a school bus and sleep in it for a week? Bring it! Rather build a wooden pirate ship, affix it to your truck and drive that over? Please do! Each year, the themes of their campgrounds change. This year’s haven’t been announced yet, so if you’ve got a vision, why not apply to start your own?
Laketown Shakedown: June 28-30 in Cowichan Valley, BC
Midsummer Music Festival: July 5-7 in Smithers, BC
Armstrong Metalfest: July 12-13 in Armstrong, BC
Hillside Festival: July 12-14 at Guelph Lake Conservation Area
Vancouver Island Music Fest: July 12-14 in Courtenay, BC
Bass Coast: July 12-15 in Merritt, BC
Starbelly Jam Music Festival: July 19-20 in Crawford Bay, BC
Evolve: July 19-21 in Moncton, NB
Kispiox Valley Music Festival: July 26-28 in Duncan, BC
ArtsWells Festival of All Things Art: August 2-5 in Wells, BC
Edge of the World Music Festival: August 9-11 in Haida Gwaii, BC
Regina Folk Festival: August 9-11 at Victoria Park, Regina