Winnipeg Folk Festival

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Winnipeg Folk Festival
Winnipeg Folk Festival Main Stage 2019
GenreMusic festival, arts festival
DatesJuly 9-12, 2020
Location(s)Birds Hill Provincial Park,
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Years active1974–present
Founded byMitch Podolak, Colin Gorrie & Ava Kobrinsky[1]
WebsiteOfficial website

The Winnipeg Folk Festival is a nonprofit charitable organization[2] with an annual summer folk music festival held in Birds Hill Provincial Park, near Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The festival features a variety of artists and music from around the world and is sure to include a number of local artists.[3]

Begun by Mitch Podolak, Colin Gorrie, and Ava Kobrinsky[2] in 1974 as a celebration of Winnipeg's centennial, the festival itself has grown into an event exceeding 70,000 attendees to the festival annually.[4] The festival is held over the second weekend of July, beginning on Thursday night and running through to Sunday night.

During the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the festival there are eight active stages filled with concerts and workshops. The Main Stage is active in the evenings Thursday through Sunday and the Big Blue @ Night stage is active Friday and Saturday.

Beyond the four-day festival, the organization offers year-round concert programming at venues throughout the city bringing in artists as well as organizing free concert programming throughout the city.


The festival offers a wide selection of music over the four-day festival. Throughout the year the organization facilitates the Hear All Year concert series.

Festival programming[edit]

There is a large variety of music at the festival, including bluegrass, Celtic, blues, roots, indie folk, Americana, folk rock, French Canadian, contemporary singer-songwriters, and a variety of children's performers. Every year artists join the lineup from all over North America and across the world.[3] The Winnipeg Folk Festival hosts over 70 artists annually from nearly 10 different countries[5] including Australia, Colombia, Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, Netherlands, Niger, United Kingdom and more with the majority of the acts coming from Canada and the United States.[6]

The festival showcases several genres every summer, past performers include Bahamas, Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, Brandi Carlile, Bruce Cockburn, City and Colour, Courtney Barnett, Death Cab for Cutie, Elle King, Feist, Great Big Sea, Half Moon Run, Jason Mraz, Kacey Musgraves, k.d. lang, K'naan, Natalie MacMaster, Passenger, Sheryl Crow, The Shins, Stan Rogers and The Strumbellas. Each year the Winnipeg Folk Festival showcases local Manitoba talent including Begonia, Boniface, The Bros. Landreth, John K. Samson, Leonard Sumner, Living Hour, Richard Inman, Roger Roger, William Prince and more.[7]

Workshops are a big part of the folk festival culture providing the audience with a unique opportunity to see artists play together on the same stage that they could never see anywhere else.[8] These workshops allow anywhere from two to five artists or bands on a stage to jam together for an hour.

The festival offers award-winning[9] family programming for children and families including incredible children’s performers, an arts and crafts area, a field full of activities and a reading tent to wind down. Children aged 12 and under are admitted to the festival for free.

Each year on the Friday of the festival young performers aged 14 to 24 take over the Shady Grove stage to perform as a part of the organizations Young Performers Program. The Young Performers Program was created to give young artist from across Canada the opportunity to learn about music and the industry from artists in the festival's main lineup. After the young performers spend Wednesday and Thursday learning from seasoned artists they have the opportunity to play for a festival audience on Friday at Shady Grove stage.[10]

Hear All Year Concert Series[edit]

The Winnipeg Folk Festival expanded to include music throughout the year taking place at various theatres in Winnipeg. Through this concert series the organization brings new artists to the city and brings back festival artists from years past.


In addition to music, the Winnipeg Folk Festival offers two campgrounds, a wide variety of food vendors, a Hand-Made Village, art installations on the festival site and in the Festival Campground.


There are two campgrounds available to festival attendees. The Festival Campground is home to 6,000 people over the festival weekend,[11] hosts a select group of food vendors, is the backdrop to several art installations and includes an unserviced RV area. The Quiet Campground is more spacious with about 2,000 people and farther away from the festival creating a quieter more serene environment with a quiet time is in effect between 11:00 PM and 7:00 AM.[12]

Food Vendors[edit]

The Winnipeg Folk Festival offers a lineup of around 30 food vendors that offer LOFT (local, organic and fair trade) foods for attendees as well as vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.[13] Vendors are available to attendees in the food village located near the centre of the festival site as well as in both taverns and Festival Campground attendees have access to a select few vendors in the Festival Campground. The organization ensures that all vendors use compostable cutlery, packaging and dishware to reduce waste entering the landfill.[14]

Hand-Made Village[edit]

Located near the centre of the festival site is the Hand-Made Village where 40+ artisans from across Canada come together to sell hand-made instruments, clothing, art, crafts, toys, homeware and jewelry.[3]

Prairie Outdoor Exhibition[edit]

Art can be found throughout the festival site thanks to the Prairie Outdoor Exhibition which is an outdoor art gallery dedicated to showcasing visual works of art created through different mediums, such as stage murals, sculptures and print-making.[15]

Art & Animation Program[edit]

The Festival Campground offers even more art through the Art & Animation Program. This program involves projects made by the community for the community. Artists apply with an idea for a structure, performance piece or group activity and with the support of the organization they bring these ideas to life in the Festival Campground.[16]


The Winnipeg Folk Festival has nearly 50 crews that are run by over 2,800 volunteers each year.[17] Volunteers work 16-20 hours for festival crews (and a minimum of 40 hours for year-round crews). Volunteers receive a four-day festival pass with backstage access which includes complimentary meals throughout the weekend, a crew t-shirt, free bus transportation and a private volunteer party on Sunday night.[18]

Environmental Sustainability[edit]

Birds Hill Provincial Park is home to the annual Winnipeg Folk Festival and the organization manages the environmental impact to the site in several ways.

The organization uses industrial composting which allows meat, bones and dairy to be composted as well as other food scraps. Food vendors are required to use compostable plates, cutlery, napkins and packaging and the taverns serve beverages in compostable cups.[14]

In 2012, Winnipeg Folk Festival was certified as a fair trade event by Fair Trade Manitoba.[19] Food vendors are encouraged to offer LOFT (Local, Organic, Fair Trade), vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free food options. On the Friday of the festival the backstage kitchen goes vegetarian for the day offering only vegetarian options to volunteers, staff artists and guests.

The recycling initiative for the festival began in 1989 and recycling bins can be found throughout the festival site and Festival Campground.[20] The volunteer Enviro Crews work hard to ensure waste is going into the correct bins as well as sorting waste in the Festival Campground throughout the weekend.

Free bus services both from downtown Winnipeg and around Birds Hill Provincial Park are available to attendees.

Since 2014 the Winnipeg Folk Festival has been a bottled water free festival.[20] Attendees are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles and fill them up at one of the many taps throughout the festival site and Festival Campground.[21]

The festival was the first event in Canada to be certified by The Eco-Logo Program[14] as an environmentally-friendly event. In 2018 the organization was presented with The Clearwater Award by Folk Alliance International which is given to a festival that prioritizes environmental stewardship and demonstrates public leadership in sustainable event production.[14]


The Winnipeg Folk Festival works with an Accessibility Advisory Group to provide accessibility services for attendees who require assistance and are equipped with an accessibility plan and accessible customer service policy.[22] Accessibility services include accessibility passes that provide free admission to support persons helping someone with a disability to attend the Festival, accessible seating areas, accessible port-a-potties, wheelchair charging stations, sign language interpretation offered at select stages, service animals are welcome and accessible camping areas.[23]

Indigenous Initiatives[edit]

The Winnipeg Folk Festival takes place on Treaty 1 Territory and the homeland of the Métis people. The Winnipeg Folk Festival works with an Indigenous Advisory Committee to ensure that Indigenous voices and culture are shared with Manitobans through engagement, education and celebration of Indigenous art, song, ceremony and storytelling. The festival begins with an opening blessing from a Knowledge Keeper from the Indigenous community. Indigenous artists from our lineup, Prairie Outdoor Exhibition and Hand-Made Village take part in a welcoming ceremony which includes prayer, song and a tribute to the land we are on.[24]


Honourary Members[edit]
  • Mitch Podolak (Founder/Director/Artistic Director), 1974-1975
  • Colin Gorrie (Founder), 1974–1975
  • Ava Kobrinsky (Founder), 1976-1989
  • Nate Nurgitz (Board Legal Advisor), 1975–85
  • Bill Merritt (Business/General Manager), 1977–1994
  • Jon Singleton (Past Treasurer), 1978–1987
Past Executive Directors[edit]
  • Trudy Schroeder, 1999–2008
  • Tamara Kater, 2008–2011
Past Artistic Directors[edit]
  • Mitch Podolak, 1974-1986
  • Rosalie Goldstein, 1987–1991
  • Pierre Guérin, 1992–2000
  • Rick Fenton, 2001–2004
Past President & Chairs[edit]
  • Peter Stringham, 1976–1979
  • Greg Brunskill, 1980
  • Derek Black, 1981–1987
  • Jane Graham, 1988–1990
  • David Asper, 1991–1992
  • Michael Handler, 1993–1995
  • Brenda Prosken, 1996–1998
  • Gloria Koop, 1999–2000
  • Gerry Couture, 2001–2002
  • Sandra Altner 2003–2004
  • Terry Sargeant 2005–2009
  • Allan Finkel 2010-2011
  • Gerry Couture, 2012
  • Mike Baudic, 2012-2015
  • Karen-Denise Cyr, 2015-2017[25]



  • Travel Manitoba Tourism Awards - Event of the Year (Budget over $5000)[26]
  • Tourism Winnipeg Awards of Distinction - Winnipeg Tourism Marketing Campaign (over $2500)
  • International Folk Music Awards - The Clearwater Award[14]
  • Live Music Industry Awards (Canadian Music Week) - Community Impact Award

2017 - 2018

  • Travel Manitoba Tourism Awards - Manitoba Tourism Partnership Award with Birds Hill Provincial Park
  • #4 on BizBash Top 100 Events in Canada - Music Event

2016 - 2017

  • Best Family Program at a Festival by Canadian Music Week
  • Best of Winnipeg: Reader's Choice Award - Winnipeg Free Press
  • #7 on BizBash Top 100 Events in Canada list
  • RV West Reader's Choice for Favourite Festival You'd Like to Attend With Your RV - Manitoba

2015 - 2016

  • Travel Manitoba Award for Volunteer of the Year: Jane Graham
  • Voted Favourite Manitoba Festival by The Uniter
  • #9 on BizBash Top 100 Events in Canada list

2014 - 2015

  • Volunteer Manitoba Awards – The Friesen Family: Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Family IMPACT Award
  • Tourism Winnipeg Awards of Distinction: Large Business of the Year Award
  • Voted Favourite Manitoba Festival by The Uniter

2013 - 2014

  • A Greener Festival Award for sustainability initiatives
  • Volunteer Manitoba Awards – Harry Paine in the Lieutenant Governor’s Make a Difference Community Award category and Karen Dana in the William Norrie Award for Outstanding Community Leadership (Urban) category
  • Voted Favourite Manitoba Festival by The Uniter

2012 - 2013

  • Manitoba Access Awareness Week 2012 recognition for outstanding contribution toward creating a fully inclusive society
  • Syverson Monteyne Architecture Awarded 2012 Prairie Wood Design Award for La Cuisine and Site Office Complex
  • 2012 Manitoba Round Table for Sustainable Development Excellence in Sustainability Awards Honourable Mention in the Category of Pollution Prevention and Product Stewardship
  • Syverson Monteyne Architecture – Award of Excellence 2012 Prairie Design Awards for design of La Cuisine


  • Manitoba Tourism Awards - Event of the Year – co-won with Folklorama
  • Aging Recognition Award for Guest for a Day program from Manitoba Council on Aging for extraordinary contributions to intergenerational interaction
  • Western Canadian Music Award – Talent Buyer of the Year for Chris Frayer
  • Golden Carrot award. Nominated by Food Matters Manitoba for contributing to food sustainability in Manitoba.


  • Tourism Winnipeg’s Award of Distinction, recognizing the contribution of the festival to Winnipeg’s tourism industry.


  • Ava Kobrinsky and Mitch Podolak received Arts Award “Making a Difference” from Winnipeg Arts Council for creation of the Winnipeg Centennial Folk Festival. Presented by Sam Katz at the 2010 Mayor’s Luncheon of the Arts


  • Event of the Year from Tourism Industry Association of Canada. Nominated by Travel Manitoba.
  • Winnipeg Folk Festival signed the Manitoba Food Charter and initiated the L.O.F.T. (local, organic, fair-trade) program in the vendor and Folk Fest food areas.
  • Hilderman Thomas Frank Cram awarded a Regional Citation from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects Awards of Excellence for the Winnipeg Folk Festival Site Master Plan


  • Premier’s Volunteer Service Award to festival’s 30-year volunteers
  • Three Signature Awards from Advertising Association of Winnipeg to design firm Relish Design for 2007 Folk Fest advertising campaign posters and program book.
  • Up! Value Award from West Jet – Event Category winner


  • Uptown’s Best of Winnipeg – Best Festival
  • Folk Alliance – Best Festival


  • Uptown’s Best of Winnipeg – Best Festival


  • Western Canadian Music Award – Retail Store of the Year


  • Prairie Music Award – Retail Store of the Year


  • Signature Award – Best Poster Design


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b "Winnipeg Folk Festival | The Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  3. ^ a b c "Winnipeg Folk Festival kicks off its 46th year". CBC News Manitoba.
  4. ^ "Folk Fest hit record attendance". Winnipeg Free Press.
  5. ^ "Winnipeg Folk Festival Annual Report 2018-2019" (PDF). Winnipeg Folk Festival Annual Report 2018-2019.
  6. ^ "Summer's golden hour". Winnipeg Free Press. March 6, 2019.
  7. ^ "Past Performers – Winnipeg Folk Festival". Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  8. ^ Comments, Posted: 07/10/2019 1:35 PM | (2019-07-10). "Top Winnipeg Folk Festival workshop picks". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  9. ^ Awards, Live Music Industry. "2016 Winners | CMW presents Live Music Industry Awards". Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  10. ^ "STINGRAY Young Performers Program – Winnipeg Folk Festival". Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  11. ^ "Hunkering down at Winnipeg Folk Fest? Here's how to be a happy camper". CBC News Manitoba.
  12. ^ "Quiet Campground – Winnipeg Folk Festival". Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  13. ^ "A Look at Folk Fest's Epic Food & Drink Lineup". We Heart Winnipeg.
  14. ^ a b c d e "Folk Alliance International". Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  15. ^ Chan, Cindy (2014-06-06). "Jun 2014: Bring buddies to build blanket". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  16. ^ "Art – Winnipeg Folk Festival". Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  17. ^ "Our Organization | Winnipeg Folk Festival". Archived from the original on 2014-02-16. Retrieved 2016-02-10.
  18. ^ "Looking To Volunteer – Winnipeg Folk Festival". Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  19. ^ "Events – Fair Trade Manitoba". Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  20. ^ a b "Sustainability – Winnipeg Folk Festival". Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  21. ^ "'A litre for each hour': Tips for surviving Manitoba summer heat". Global News. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  22. ^ "Accessibility – Winnipeg Folk Festival". Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  23. ^ "Accessibility News: January 2019". Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  24. ^ "Indigenous Initiatives – Winnipeg Folk Festival". Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  25. ^ "Staff and Board – Winnipeg Folk Festival". Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  26. ^ "Manitoba Tourism Awards Winners 2018". Retrieved 2019-10-02.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°02′01″N 96°52′48″W / 50.0335°N 96.8801°W / 50.0335; -96.8801