Winnipeg BBQ & Blues Festival

The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer


Shaw Park // August 16-17

Big Names // Robert Cray, Watermelon Slim, The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer

Local talent // Reverend Rambler, Big Dave McLean

Cost // Day pass - $39.50 Weekend pass - $69.50

Regular downtown parking rules apply.


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The sweet and sour sauce will be a little bittersweet for some at this year's Winnipeg BBQ and Blues Festival taking place August 16th and 17th at Shaw Park

"Honestly, this year will be tough for all of us at the Festival," says Rick Fenton, WBBF Artistic Director.

Year three will be the first without festival founder and all-around local arts champion Kevin Walters who succumbed to cancer this spring.

"I’d wanted to do for about a decade but it was Kevin who said 'We can do this',” Fenton recalls.  "He and I started this thing from scribbling on a napkin to seeing a bunch of happy fans and artists gathered together to celebrate great food and great music."

It will also be the first year the festival will be held downtown at Shaw Park, as the first two editions were held outside of the Perimeter Highway at the Red River Exhibition Park.

"Shaw Park is great facility," Fenton says.  "It's close to our host hotel and other attractions in the core."

And with more public transportation options available, it's a winning move for fans as well.

Beyond a new location, fans will the festival very familiar, as organizers stuck to the same plan that has attracted just over 5,000 in each of its first two times at the plate.

"Well, it’s more of a fine tuning," Fenton explains.  "We’re sticking close to the idea of keeping it reasonably priced for music and BBQ fans so that it’s accessible to a wide audience and demographic."

Great food and great music again co-headline the event, which features an official Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned BBQ competition, with the winner earning a spot in the World Food Competition to be held in Las Vegas and Blues legends Watermelon Slim, Eddie Shaw, Colin James and Robert Cray on the main stage.

Five-time Grammy winner Cray's last appearance in Winnipeg was October 3, 2010 at the Garrick Centre.  His most well-known album, 1986’s Strong Persuader, hit #13 on the Billboard 200 Album chart, with the single, "Smoking Gun reaching #22.

Folks may remember Eddie Shaw and his band The Wolfgang from the first Winnipeg BBQ and Blues Festival.

"They made a real connection with our audience," Fenton says.  "He’s an amazing performer and a real connection back to Howlin’ Wolf and the original Chicago blues scene."

Vancouver duo The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, along with Winnipeg's Big Dave McLean and The Perpetrators are among other main stage acts.

A second stage, dubbed The 1st Base Stage, features the Manitoba Blues Society Harmonica and Guitar Workshop and Jam in addtion to performances from local artists including Tim Butler, Tracy K, and The Reverend Rambler.

The Reverend Rambler brings his brand of hillbilly blues back to the festival, along with a new album.

"We played the festival last year and had an amazing time," the Rev says. "I love BBQ, especially ribs, and there are some truly incredible acts."

Other attractions include BBQ and food demonstrations, food vendors, and an artisan's village.

Part of the series: 2014 Summer Festival Guide

Published in Volume 68, Number 29 of The Uniter (August 5, 2014)

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