1. Winnipeg Folk Festival
2. Rainbow Trout Music Festival / Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival (tie)
In all the time that the Uniter 30 has included a category for Favourite Local Festival – the last three years, that is – The Winnipeg Folk Festival has won. If this was sportsball, we’d call it a three-peat, or a Triple Crown, or some other sports analogy.
It’s a festival that’s spawned its own city in a city (but in the country, kind of), with laws and law-breakers and traditions that the people fight to uphold. Festival fans are passionate and involved in the pillars of their annual, and provisional, community.
While a lot of the festival culture revolves around the tent city that springs up in Birds Hill Park every year, people aren’t just there to camp.
“It comes down to a music-loving audience,” Chris Frayer, artistic director of the festival, explains. “That’s what we’re trying to foster and we work with artists that convey that vibe at the festival that makes you feel like when you get there, you’re kinda transported to another place.”
It helps that the festival is close to, but just outside of the city. Upon your arrival, there’s a good chance that you’ll be greeted by volunteers whose passion for the festival is hard to top.
You can expect to see the same faces at many common outposts, like the wavers at the entrance to the campground, the well-decorated roving raffle salespeople, and many others who have declared their volunteer crew allegiance as if it were their very own home team.
“I think our volunteers have built these small families over the years,” Frayer says. He’s impressed by the commitment that they’ve shown. “People take time off work to volunteer.”
But it wouldn’t be a festival if it was all work and no play. Even those who pay their dues in time rather than gate prices have ample space to enjoy themselves over the weekend.
“People become less inhibited, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse,” Frayer says. “It’s a kind of get your freak on, wave your freak flag high kind of weekend. Just have fun and dance and enjoy the music and hopefully spend some good time with your family and friends.”