I can’t even begin to put into words the epic experience that was the Winnipeg Folk Festival. We camped in the Festival Campground. That means that the party and music didn’t stop with the 12 hours of programming on the festival site, it just went on and on and on. I never got more than 4 hours of sleep at a time, and not because the pop up drum circles and wandering minstrels were keeping me awake (I can sleep through almost anything) but because there was always something to so, fire dancers to see or at the very least a song to sing. You started to feel like a little kid who wouldn’t nap because they were afraid of missing something.
Wednesday night found us at Vinyl Village jamming into the wee hours of the morning on tambourines, washboards and even a didgeridoo. Pacts for learning campfire sing-a-long songs were made under the prairie moon, and ‘The Weight’ by The Band was belted out more than once. Then there was the night that we got a tour of the campground through the generosity of some new friends, which involved fire dancers, a campfire side concert by the Riel Gentleman’s Choir, a random stranger roped into free-styling lyrics over another guitarist’s strummed acoustic chords, and the creation of some epic Prom worthy outfits at Wardrobe. The adventures that you could get entangled in at the Campground were almost enough to make you wish that the Festival programming wasn’t so amazing.
If the main stage acts weren’t to your taste you could head over to the Big Bluestem day stage for Big Blue @ Night for something completely different. Video art projections created by Natalie Baird and Kenneth Lavallee were shown on the overhang of the stage, and a crush of bodies danced to exhaustion in front of the stage. When the Mexican Institute Of Sound took to the stage on Saturday night a prairie field was transformed into a techno dance party, while on Friday The Strumbellas and The Sheepdogs drew crowds of fans that rivaled the main stage events of Hurray for the Riff Raff and Baskery.
Although the weather took a turn for the worse on Sunday (by the end of the day workshops my hands were actually blue from the cold) there is not a place I can imagine wanting to be more in early July than camped out in a prairie field, drifting off to dream while serenaded by the sounds of revelers returning from a full day of inspiring performances.