Manitoba summer music festival guide 2012

Ronnie Dunn performs at this year’s Countryfest.
Jon Brooks will headline the Trout Forest Music Festival in August.
Singer-songwriter Jenny Berkel is one of the many local acts who will perform at the Rainbow Trout Music Festival near St. Malo, Manitoba in mid-August.

There’s a lot of music to be seen and heard in Manitoba this summer. Whether you like folk, rock, country, blues or metal, there’s a music festival happening in or near this province that’s just for you.

We’ve got the information you need to plan your summer festival attendance right here.

Dauphin’s Countryfest

June 28 - July 1

More than 14,000 people will head to Dauphin, Manitoba for the 23rd annual Countryfest, the longest-running country music festival in Canada. Countryfest is also one of the largest camping festivals in the country, with 4,300 camping spots.

Headliners include hit country acts Reba, Zac Brown Band, Ronnie Dunn (pictured), Jimmy Rankin and Jerrod Niemann, as well as veteran Winnipeg rock act Bachman & Turner.

If you’re looking for more local content at the festival, take in performances by Big Dave McLean, Romi Mayes, Keith & Renee and Still Standing.

And if you’re tired of tunes and want to try something different for a while, hit up the beach, go for a helicopter ride, enter the Texas Hold ‘Em tournament or get dressed up for July 1’s “Craziest Canadian” contest.

Ticket price ranges from $75 to $535. Visit

Brandon Folk, Music and Art Festival

July 19 - 22

The Brandon Folk, Music and Art Festival takes place in the wooded area at the Keystone Centre, which is right on one of Brandon, Manitoba’s main drags, 18th Street.

The 28th annual festival boasts a line-up that includes Judy Collins, Jane Siberry, Kinnie Starr, Geoff Berner and Wax Mannequin, alongside Manitoba acts like Nathan, The Crooked Brothers, Michael Peters, Demetra, Federal Lights and Mama Cutsworth.

There is a campsite located a 15-foot walk from the main gate, and for the first time ever, the festival is offering a “quieter campground.”

More than just music, the festival will feature the premiere show of the Community Portrait Project, which is a photography exhibition and community-based project. Photographs from Brandon’s downtown core were curated from an open call, as well as distribution of 25 disposable cameras to people who live and work in the downtown. The exhibition will be a celebration of Brandon’s oldest, most vibrant neighbourhoods and communities.

Ticket price ranges from $28 to $80 for the entire weekend. Visit

The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba

Aug. 3 - 6

Cannon Bros., The Noble Thiefs, Mise En Scene and Del Barber are just a few of the acts set to appear at the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba, which is believed to be the second-oldest continuous ethnic festival in North America.

The first Icelandic festival in Manitoba was held in Winnipeg in 1890. It was held there annually until 1931, and since 1932 has been held in Gimli.

Little House, The Happy Unfortunate, Christopher Cool, Hey Pilgrim, Dry Bones, Lindy Vopnfjord, Sweet Alibi, Reverend Rampage and The Vopnfjords will also be at this year’s festival.

There’s a lot more to it than just music, though. There are pancake breakfasts, pole vault competitions, beach volleyball tournaments, a fine art show, a parade, family sports and, as if all that wasn’t enough, there’s also a viking warfare tactics demonstration.


As if all that wasn’t enough, there’s also a viking warfare tactics demonstration.


Aug. 10 - 11

Inspired by the More Than Music Festival in Dayton, Ohio - a benefit festival that combined music and social activism - Arsonfest was started in 2000 by local metal musician and promoter Mike Alexander.

The festival returns this year for two days of total brutality at Negative Space (253 Princess Ave.).

Bands performing at the festival include Enabler, Archagathus, The Great Sabatini, Bridgeburner, Burning Ghats, Violent Gorge, Honor and Devour, Northless, Misanthropic Noise, Violent Restitution, Putrescence, Gowl, Cetascean, Scab Smoker, Flash Out and Plague.

Admission is $15 per night (tickets available at the door) and proceeds go to Sisters in Spirit, a campaign that raises awareness of the alarmingly high rates of violence against Aboriginal women in Canada.

Visit the event’s Facebook page at for details.

Trout Forest Music Festival

Aug. 10 - 12

Started in 1996, just 106 people attended the first Trout Forest Music Festival. Since then, it’s grown into a great party whose list of artistic directors has included Devin Latimer of Winnipeg roots act Nathan.

Although this festival doesn’t happen in Manitoba, it’s only 400 km. away and has become a favourite among many Winnipeggers over the past 16 years.

More than 1,800 people are expected at this year’s festival, which features music from acclaimed Canadian folk singer-songwriter Jon Brooks, “the yodeling farmer” Stew Clayton and Juno Award-winning Cuban/Canadian singer-songwriter Alex Cuba.

Manitoba acts on the bill include Rambling Dan Frechette, The Magnificent 7s, Scott Nolan, Red Moon Road and Fred Penner.

Festival camping is on the shores of the English River, which is part of the historic Red Lake Gold Rush trail.

Ticket price ranges from $11 to $70. Visit

Rainbow Trout Music Festival

Aug. 17 - 19

Operated with revenue generated at fundraising events, grants from local and national arts organizations and by the generously-donated efforts of the organizing committee and its volunteers, the Rainbow Trout Music Festival - that delightfully DIY festival and fishing derby that does its darndest to promote local talent - is back for its fifth year.

This year, the festival takes place on a piece of private land just south of St. Malo, roughly 45 minutes outside of Winnipeg.

Rob Crooks, The Empty Standards, Feed the Birds, Ultra Mega, Heartbeat City, Smoky Tiger, Jenny Berkel, The Bokononists, The Blisters, Pop Crimes and The Hoots are just some of the diverse acts already confirmed.

There may also be a massive water fight.

“Bring water guns,” organizer Ben Jones wrote in a post in the festival’s Facebook group in June. “Just imagine 400 water guns blazing all at once (and) it makes sense. Participation = the best time ever.”

Tickets go on sale Saturday, July 7.

Join the festival’s Facebook group at for details.

Winnipeg BBQ & Blues Festival

Aug. 17 - 19

This brand new event takes place at the Red River Exhibition Park and will feature the best in local, national and international blues performers along with a “Pit Masters” BBQ competition.

Beginning at noon each day, blues musicians will perform on three different stages. Confirmed acts include Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt-a-Whirl Band, Little Miss Higgins, The Sojourners, Jim Byrnes, Romi Mayes, Steve Dawson, The Perpetrators and Big Dave McLean.

There are $10,000 in prizes at stake in the BBQ competition, which is comprised of four meat categories: pork butt, pork back or St. Louis ribs, chicken, and beef brisket. According to the event’s website, “This event is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and their official rules and regulations will apply. All judging will be double blind by KCBS trained judges.”

We’re not sure what that means, but it sounds impressive.

Ticket price ranges from $22.50 to $37.50.


Related articles:

‘The festival is about discovery’ - Winnipeg Folk Festival offers big-name acts alongside lesser-known bands you’re bound to fall in love with

Three to see at this year’s Winnipeg Folk Festival

Following their hearts: Amid growing popularity, the members of The Head and the Heart are staying true to their craft

Published in Volume 66, Number 28 of The Uniter (June 27, 2012)

Related Reads