For a summer music festival where “everyone’s welcome,” make your way to the Winnipeg Folk Festival, which takes place every year in a vast patch of land called the Birds Hill Provincial Park. Bathed in hippy-love sunshine and sprouting corn dogs, elephant ears and beaver tails from fairground vans, it’s a surprisingly mixed crowd and a surprisingly mixed line-up. With over 132 days of snow in the winter, it’s no wonder that everyone makes the most of summer by leaving the city behind and partying amid long grass and sunshine, followed by canvas and stars.
With First Nations art and Canadian festival staples like beaver tails and elephant ears, the main focus above all else, is the music. And the love. Over 70 performing artists from around the world keep the stages rocking over a five day period, while revellers roll out picnic mats and folding chairs in an orderly fashion to make room for the mosh pits. Despite the folksy name, music here ranges from funk to gospel with Indie, Americana and bluegrass to boot. For a festival of more than 80 000, the resulting footprint is small. They aim to be 100% sustainable, offering water pumps and biodegradable cups to try to reduce waste. The idea is to leave no mark behind.
“It feels like an escape,” says Lynne Skromeda, the Executive Director. “And people come back here year after year. From Winnipeg, from Dakota, Minnesota. Other isolated places.”
Most attendees camp but for those who prefer their creature comforts, a regular shuttle bus covers the 60 minute journey from Birds Hill Provincial Park back to the centre of Winnipeg, which is built for summer lazing. You can access the great outdoors (and it really is great,) indulge in chic French culture, retrace First Nations history and feast your senses amid a diverse and cosmopolitan city built for the 21st century. Walkways and cycle paths run alongside the river, while pop up art displays and outdoor cafes give you a reason to stop for a while. A walk across the Esplanade Riel from The Forks takes you to the French Quarter of St Boniface and a world of organic tea, coffee and wine.
If you come here in the summer to experience the Winnipeg life and everything the festival entails – sugary beaver tails and all -,it’s important to remember the most important thing for all ages to do: listen to the music and have fun. Isn’t that what summer and music festivals are all about anyway?
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