How To Rock The Winnipeg Folk Festival: Insider Tips From Musicians and Fans

The #PrairiePlaces Summer Road Trip is going international!

By the time you read this, I’ll be headed up north with my friend Liz for a girls weekend of music, art, museums, shopping and even a spa day in Winnipeg, one of my favorite Canadian cities. You can follow our adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on Snapchat (there are going to be so many snaps, sorry, not sorry) at PrairieStylFile.

And I’m excited to check out the Winnipeg Folk Festival for the first time ever! I’ve lived just a few hours from Winnipeg for most of my life and I’ve always heard people talk about the music, art, camping, food and atmosphere at this four-day festival. I’m glad I’ll finally be able to see it for myself.

Since this is my first time, I asked the performers and fans for advice. Here are their insider tips and tricks for how to best enjoy the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

Folk-Festival-Dressing

Jillian Recksiedler, Communications Specialist and Media Relations for Travel Manitoba, says to bring a low-slung backpack chair, since chairs that are more than two feet off the ground need to be in the back of the crowd. (Lots of people also bring tarps or blankets to get up close.)

She also offered a tip I’ve already used — “Get the app!” I downloaded the nifty, free Winnipeg Folk Festival app and I’ve been listening to festival artists on Soundcloud all week, right from the app. You’ll also find maps, the performance schedule and a breakdown of all the street food at the festival. (Yessssss!)

Speaking of performers, Morgan Fiks, percussionist for The Hairy Prairies, a Winnipeg blues, rock and folk outfit that will be performing as wandering minstrels during the festival, has some great tips too! Here’s what Morgan suggests packing.

The-Hairy-Prairies
The Hairy Prairies

Everyone reminded me to pack a reusable water bottle, but Morgan has an even better idea — upgrade to a hydration pack. “A water bladder is a game changer,” Morgan insists. “The festival is water bottle free, which is great, but it leads to line ups at the the water fountains at the stage you want to be at, so why not fill up a 2 litre bladder and be good for hours? And it fits in the pocket of your backpack chair.”

The weather in Manitoba can be scorching hot one minute and rainy the next, so bring an umbrella and rain gear along with your sunscreen and hat. “Rain is the big good time ruiner,” says Morgan. “I didn’t bring rain boots to my first couple Folk Fests and I left my second one with trench foot.” (Editor’s note: I just Googled this. Augghh! Gross.)

“The last thing is food,” Morgan continues. “There are some of the best food vendors in Manitoba in the festival. You’d be doing yourself a great disservice by not setting up your new chair at a stage where there is something you really want to see […] and going and getting yourself a big plate of something amazing and scarf it while you enjoy the music. Those kids sitting uncomfortably on a tarp beside you eating granola will be very jealous.

The-Brothers-Comatose-by-Rosie-Gutierrez
The Brothers Comatose are not particularly comatose, as you can see. Photo by Rosie Gutierrez

The lovely Ben Morrison, vocalist and guitarist for the The Brothers Comatose, a five piece bluegrass, folk and Americana outfit out of San Francisco chimed in as well.

“My advice to festival-goers would be hydrate, don’t forget your sunscreen and do some research on bands before you go,” Ben says. “Your next favorite band could be on one of those stages this weekend and you don’t want to miss it. There’s lots of good music. Do some research and make a schedule so you can see as much as possible.”

“We love festivals because it puts us in front of audiences that might never see us otherwise,” he continues. “We especially love Canadian festivals because they like to put multiple artists/bands on stage at the same time to see what happens. We have lots of workshops at Winnipeg Folk Fest with other bands we really love and we’re excited to see what happens when we’re on stage with them.”

Moorhead, Minnesota photographer Britta Trygstad, who will be camping at the festival with her husband and two little ones, agrees. “Make sure to take advantage of the day stages,” she says. “That’s where the magic happens.”

Ruby&Smith(4377)958KB
Ruby & Smith

Finally, Daphne Roubini, one half of Vancouver’s old time jazz ukulele duo Ruby & Smith, has some smart festival hacks for us too.

The first involves festival dressing. “Bring a sarong with you,” says Daphne. “Its perfect for sitting down on the ground as you wander from stage to stage, keeps the sun off you if it is boiling hot and then is a lovely soft scarf when the evening draws in.” Smart.

Remember that refillable water bottle everybody reminded you to bring? Daphne has a way to improve on it. “Put some ice, lemon and fresh mint into a big mason jar and keep topping it up with water for refreshing drinks all day!” Doubly smart.

“Then turn your phone off, chill and allow the performances to enchant you,” she says. “There is something about the connection with nature, the wind, sky, earth, air, that feels amazing to perform into, it feels so expansive and free. The sound can waft in the wind in unexpected ways and it finds its way to people who aren’t even at the stage like the pied piper.”

I. Can’t. Wait.

Need more advice? The Winnipeg Folk Festival has more tips and tricks in this What To Know Before You Go post.

What about you?
Have you been to the Winnipeg Folk Festival before?
What advice do you have for first-timers and veterans? If you’re going this year, what are you most excited about? Which performers do you love? What should I see when I’m in Winnipeg? Leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments. Thanks in advance!

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I’ll be in Winnipeg as a guest of Travel Manitoba and Tourism Winnipeg. My opinions on my trip are my own…unless I’m quoting somebody else like I did here! Journalists…we’re such sticklers for accuracy.

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Join me for Hats Off To Ladies, at the North Dakota Horse Park on July 17

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