Simply calling the Winnipeg Folk Festival an outdoor music festival is an understatement.
While excellent folk music remains at the core of the festival, it also provides attendees with an eclectic artisan village, burgeoning visual artists, local food vendors and a five-day tenting community that makes campers reluctant to leave Birds Hill Provincial Park come Monday morning.
“It involves a pretty comprehensive experience,” artistic director Chris Frayer says of the festival’s many attractions. “The fact that summers are so short in Winnipeg (means) people really enjoy the whole event. They come for the music then they get turned on to other things.”
The 38th annual Winnipeg Folk Festival begins on Wednesday, July 4 with a main stage performance featuring Feist and James Vincent McMorrow, and comes to a close on Sunday, July 8 with Iron & Wine and a Woody Guthrie tribute act.
While these larger acts, including K’naan and Billy Bragg, are sure to boost attendance, they make up only a handful of the almost 70 different bands performing over five days.
Some smaller but noteworthy bands performing at this year’s festival are folk-rockers Blitzen Trapper, world-indie band Devotchka and Latin-inspired group Ozomatli.
“I’m not always thinking about how many tickets a band will sell. It’s more about how much people will love it when they see it,” Frayer says. “The festival is about discovery - trying to get people out for one band that they like and then checking out a whole bunch. That’s typically the experience we want people to have.”
It’s also important to take note of the many up-and-coming artists featured in the Galaxie Young Performers Program, as well as the established local artists performing throughout the weekend, such as Black Sea Station and Fish & Bird.
Another local act performing at the festival is folk trio Dry Bones.
Band member Nathan Rodgers is looking forward to it.
“I’m always delighted to see that there are local musicians booked into the Winnipeg Folk Festival,” Rodgers says. “I hope that the people in charge of that continue to draw on the great talent here in Winnipeg.”
If you’re a first time folkie, getting the most out of the festival is important, but it can easily become overwhelming.
Frayer maintains that open-mindedness will go a long way.
For day-trippers, he recommends coming out for a full day of programming on Friday, Saturday or Sunday from 11 a.m. until midnight. During this time, the six daytime stages will feature artist workshops and concerts in full swing, and the alternative evening stage, Big Blue at Night, will also be bumping.
With so much to see and do, the Folk Festival is a testament to Winnipeggers’ appreciation of good grassroots music and getting in touch with our community.
The festival is a rich part of the music culture in Winnipeg, says Alexa Dirks of local vocal ensemble Chic Gamine, who will also be appearing at this year’s festival.
“It’s not just something that is about the summer,” Dirks says. “It perpetuates throughout the year and I think it’s great what it does for the city.”
The 38th annual Winnipeg Folk Festival happens Wednesday, July 4 to Sunday, July 8. Tickets are available for a variety of different prices at Ticketmaster. For more information, visit www.winnipegfolkfestival.ca.
Published in Volume 66, Number 28 of The Uniter (June 27, 2012)