Manitoba is home to a plethora of festivals, and choosing which ones to preview from a list of over 100 is a daunting task. This year, we decided to write short previews for festivals we hadn’t previewed before or for those that reinvented themselves this year, which is a nice sentiment, but what about the classics?
Many local festivals have become iconic, occupying a special place in festival-goers’ hearts and summer schedules. Whether they’re a big name or an underdog favoured by our readers (and writers), here’s a brief summary of festivals that have become (or are in the process of becoming) summer staples.
This fest pairs big-name, multi-genre artists with talented locals and crosses a variety of venues throughout the city. The colloquially known Jazz Fest includes ticketed shows, as well as free concerts at Old Market Square, which is often lined with food trucks and bike racks during the 10 days (and two weekends) that the festival runs.
Fifty local artists (including the likes of Atlaas, Dirty Catfish Brass Band, Faouzia, Iskwé, The lytics and Rayannah) are part of the lineup this year. The bigger names include Tune-Yards, lido Pimienta, Hannah Epperson, The Flaming lips and more.
Winnipeg Fringe Festival
July 18 to 29, winnipegfringe.com
Theatre isn’t the only attraction of the Fringe, but for those who love it, these 11 days are jam- packed with 180 companies across 30 venues in Winnipeg.
One perk of this festival is the relatively flat pricing structure: whether they’re held in an intimate venue or the concert hall, tickets to all shows will run between $10 and $12, and some performances are further reduced. A Frequent Fringer pass offers further discounts for keeners.
Musical performances and other entertainment fill the Cube at Old Market Square day and night, while beer gardens and food vendors surround the perimeter.
August 16 to 19, memefest.ca
While true to their local roots, the Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition (MEME) also brings in world-class artists for this four-day celebration of music and technology.
The festival incorporates a learning aspect through their educational workshops and hosts a mix of free shows at the Cube in Old Market Square and ticketed events at other venues. This year’s headliners include Mr C, Jay Tripwire, Pezzner, The librarian, Phil Western and more. Music is accompanied by visual effects courtesy of artists like Carrie gates, Pixel Pusher and Jabez Wray. Follow them on Facebook for full programming announcements.
Red River Ex
June 15 to 24, redriverex.com
The Ex might be best known for its midway, with rides like the Wacky Worm Coaster and classic merry-go-rounds for the “little ones,” and the Zipper, the Mega Drop and the Ring of Fire for “big kids.”
It’s a family-friendly event, but also feel free to interpret “big kids” loosely.
If you’re into more adult-paced activities, the Ex has main stage concerts every night (check out The Dead South and Terra lightfoot on June 19!), a beer garden and community events. In true exhibition fashion, there will be agricultural events, an art show, a quilt show and more.
Gimli Film Festival
July 25 to 29, gimlifilm.com
This festival is a summertime destination for film buffs and also casual movie-lovers who’d like to mix the cinema with the beach. With indoor and outdoor screenings combined, over 150 films were showcased at Gimli Film Fest (GFF) last year.
Nicola Baldwin and Miles Crossman, who won last year’s RBC $10,000 Emerging Filmmaker competition will be premiering their work this year, and the competition is on again as well.
This year’s festival is committing to gender, and they’ve pledged that between 40 and 60 per cent of films screened will be written or directed by women. They’ll also be highlighting feature films from emerging female local and international female directors.
Rainbow Trout Music Festival
August 17 to 19, rainbowtroutmusicfestival.com
This relatively small (as festivals go) gathering on the shores of the Roseau River celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
The Rainbow Trout Music Festival (RTMF) releases their musical lineup on June 1, but tunes aside, there are other good times to be had at a festival that began as a friend’s fishing derby. Traditions include a cribbage tournament, the open mic at Carpet Beach and artistic installations that change yearly.
Floating devices of all shapes and sizes adorn the river’s shores, and festival-goers carry these down a river path to enjoy a leisurely float back down to the main stage and camping site.
APTN’s Indigenous Day Live
June 23, indigenousdaylive.ca
APTN’s huge annual celebrations are held simultaneously in Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa, and are also broadcast for those watching from home. The concert and powwow - held in partnership with Manito Ahbee Festival - take place at the Forks National Historic Site.
There are lots of activities for families during the day, including games and competitions for skateboarding and “Best Bannock.” Artisans and food vendors are also on site.
The free evening concert runs from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m., featuring Walk Off The Earth, Midnight Shine, William Prince, Skyler, Sister Says and Oh My Darling.
Real Love Summer Fest
July 27 to 29, reallovesummerfest.com
Now in its fifth year, Real Love Summer Fest was built from the ground up and has changed locations a few times. For the second year in a row, it’ll be held in Teulon, Man.
Their musical programming blends up-and-coming local favourites with touring bands, some of whom can be heard outside of the festival weekend through year-round concerts promoted by Real Love.
Concert organizers warn attendees not to expect power - the festival (and camping) are in the woods - and do not allow drums and djembes. This year they’re bringing in TOPS, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, Hooded Fang and more.
Free events in Assiniboine Park
All summer long! assiniboinepark.ca
The Lyric Theatre hosts a slew of top-notch free entertainment for all ages to enjoy in picturesque Assiniboine Park. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra performs on June 28, and Folklorama in the Park brings in multiple artists on July 15 and August 2 and 12.
It’s a great spot to enjoy world-class ballet from July 25 to 27, when the Royal Winnipeg Ballet holds their annual Ballet in the Park series. And on Fridays through August, earlier showings of family-friendly movies are followed by a later screening of selections for slightly more grown-up kids.
It’s a short trek from the stage to the washrooms, but there are amenities on site, and an iconic ice cream shop just across the river.
Winnipeg Folk Festival
July 5 to 8, winnipegfolkfestival.ca
This summer staple turns Birds Hill Provincial Park into a miniature folk city for four days. Musical programming through the daytime workshops and evening stages mostly echo the folk ethos while incorporating genres like indie rock, electronic, roots and country.
City commuters can drive or bus on site, while committed folkies have the option to pitch their tents and RVs in the quieter campground (or fully serviced park campground) a short drive or bike from the festival site, or just across the road in the legendary festival campground.
This year’s headliners include John Butler Trio, Courtney Barnett, Sheryl Crow, A Tribe Called Red, Rhye and Bahamas.
August 3 to 8, icelandicfestival.com
The 129th iteration of the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba is held in the heart of the Icelandic diaspora - the town of Gimli, on the shores of Lake Winnipeg.
The festival blends traditional events like a Viking battle and Fris-Nok tournament with relatively modern additions to entertainment, including a midway, beach volleyball, fireworks and soccer.
Islendingadagurinn also brings musicians to the pier and onstage at their alternative folk festival - watch their website for lineup details.
A Viking Golf Tournament in support of the festival will be held on June 15.
Published in Volume 72, Number 25 of The Uniter (May 31, 2018)