The appeal of the Winnipeg Folk Festival made sense as soon as I learned that the city has over 132 days of snow.
With conditions like that, it’s no wonder that everyone makes the most of summer by leaving the city behind and partying amid long grass and sunshine, followed by canvas and stars.
The Winnipeg Folk Festival takes place every year and the first thing you should know about is that it uses the word “folk” lightly. Indie, Americana, gospel, bluegrass, Celtic and more attract a relaxed and varied crowd.
“It’s a celebration of life,” says Lynne Skromeda, the Executive Director, when I caught up with her amid the meadows.
There’s First Nations art and Canadian festival staples like beaver tails and elephant ears but the focus here, above all else, is the music. And the love.
There’s a lot, a lot of love.
Artists from around the world keep the stages rocking over a five day period, while revelers roll out picnic mats and folding chairs in an orderly fashion to make room for the mosh pits.
Most attendees camp but for those who prefer their creature comforts, a regular shuttle bus covers the 60 minute journey from Birds Hill Provincial Park back to the centre of Winnipeg.
For a festival of more than 80 000, the resulting footprint is small. They aim to be 100% sustainable, says Skromeda, offering water pumps and biodegradable cups to try to reduce waste.
So, for a summer music festival where “everyone’s welcome,” make your way to Winnipeg (when it isn’t awash with snow.)
Winnipeg is a quintessential Canadian city with a name to cheer you up. Although, technically the name hails from the words for muddy or murky water, personally I prefer the link between Winona Ryder and a wooden peg leg.)
From Winnipeg you can access the great outdoors (and it really is great,) indulge in chic French culture, retrace First Nations history and feast your senses amid a diverse and cosmopolitan city built for the 21st century.
Winnipeg’s new flagship museum, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, gleams in silver and chrome on the riverbank where, famously, the Red and Assiniboine Rivers combine together at The Forks.
The Forks today also has a covered market, where gourmet cheese and aromatherapy products sit for sale beneath a cardboard cutout Mountie (this is absolutely no joke.)
A ride with the Winnipeg Trolley Company is a good way to get your bearings, heading out from The Forks and travelling through the Exchange District, past the Manitoba Legislature and even to the furthest reaches of the Assiniboine Park.
Though covered in snow in winter, Winnipeg is built for summer lazing.
Walkways and cycle paths run alongside the river, while pop up art displays and outdoor cafes give you a reason to stop for a while (I’d highly recommend the Cibo Waterfront Café, whose exposed brick interior lit with bare lightbulbs highlights the natural beauty of the water all the more.)
And for those who really want to get into a relaxed and summery vibe, the Winnipeg Folk Festival (which uses the word “folk” very loosely) takes place every year in July.
A walk across the Esplanade Riel from The Forks takes you to the French Quarter of St Boniface and a world of organic tea, coffee and wine (there even is a restaurant that’s called Promenade Café and Wine.) For a “dirtier” way to dine, take pleasure in a meaty, smoky sandwich at the sustainably based Miss Browns.
For a flavour of how Winnipeg grew to become the city it is today, head into the expertly arranged Manitoba Museum. Here, interactive displays involving ships, trains and First Nations traders tell the story of the development of Canada and the numerous pitfalls along the way.
Flights connect well with other Canadian cities as well as Chicago, Las Vegas, Denver and Phoenix, and Winnipeg’s a safe city to walk or cycle around. It’s quite large, though, so for some excursions you’ll be better off taking a taxi.
Money Saving tips
Take yourself on a treasure hunt to spot the city’s more than 400 murals.
Stroll around the Forks Market for free, taking in all the sounds, smells and sights of this diverse yet gentrified place.
Did You Know?
It snows in Winnipeg for over 130 days each year
Winnipeg was the first city in the world to use 911 as an emergency number
Winnipeg Folk Festival began in 1974. It was supposed to be a one time event…
Finding the fluttering blue flags of an impromptu art exhibition as the sun set along the banks of the Assiniboine River.