The crowd swells inside and surrounds the orange temporary fencing in the Maryland Food Fare parking lot. Fontine serenades the lot filled with people, dogs, bicycles and other odd assortments. It’s a warm fall evening on a day packed with music and art. One of those Winnipeg days where people can’t decide which event to attend. Everything is the same as before, yet a little different.
Since 2004, the Sherbrook Street Festival has taken over the street to bring music, a market and activities to West Broadway. Last year, after a loss in both momentum and volunteers, festival organizers could no longer close off the street, and the event was spread over a few different locations.
“It can be complicated to close the street, because it is also an ambulance route,” Eric Napier Strong, the West Broadway BIZ executive director, says.
Strong says having multiple locations took more resources than they had available and “diluted the impact,” so, this year, they focused on the event’s strength: the music.
He credits the area with having “a thriving creative scene,” and he wanted to prioritize hosting this year’s event in a “familiar place.”
“Turning the grocery store where you shop into this big community party felt right,” Strong says.
Local independent concert promoter Real Love Winnipeg was brought on board to produce the festival in 2017. Gil Carroll, co-artistic director and founder of Real Love, says they focused on the concert in the parking lot because the board for West Broadway BIZ loved it.
The street festival was rebranded to Maryland Music Fest to avoid confusion, as the shops, stages and stands no longer occupied Sherbrook Street. “Last year, everybody said, ‘Oh, we went to Sherbrook, but there was no festival,’” Strong says.
The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) usually sponsors the Sherbrook Street Festival but wasn’t involved with this year’s Maryland Street Fest.
“Due to the change in UWSA management in the middle of June, with limited time, our focus and resources were centred around on-campus engagement and on-campus events. We hope to be part of the Maryland Fest next year,” UWSA president Tomiris Kaliyeva says.
UWSA personnel changes also created some challenges with the university’s annual Roll Call event. While it took place on the campus’ front lawn, there was no beer garden or live music. However, Kaliyeva hinted that the UWSA is planning another party for students in the coming months.
Despite the gap left by the Sherbrook Street Festival, other events have grown out of its absence and have filled out the weekend. The newly founded Mango Fest held its first public event at Darling Bar. The Neighbour by Neighbour Music Fest, a fundraiser for Lord Roberts Community Centre, also brought people out for its second year.
“It’s about community over competition,” Carter Happy, a Mango Fest organizer, says.
The adaptation and reemergence of multiple festivals proves that while things change or seemingly disappear, the heart of the music and arts community finds a way to continue to thrive.
At the end of Maryland Music Fest, people got sweaty dancing to Roman Clarke before dispersing, some wandering into The Handsome Daughter for an afterparty featuring a Daughter-styled hoedown with The Land League.
Strong says the Food Fare owner has volunteered his parking lot for the whole day next year, which will allow the West Broadway BIZ to explore the return of the other activities.
“If people want to see the street festival aspect back again, they should send us an email and offer to volunteer next year.”
Published in Volume 78, Number 03 of The Uniter (September 21, 2023)