City & Politics

Summer festivals to get excited about in Manitoba

When it comes to winter, I’m the main character in Memento: As soon as it’s over, I’ve forgotten about it.

Unlike Leonard Shelby though, I don’t give myself tattoo reminders of what I’ve just experienced. I’m happy to forget. Was this past winter even that bad?


What’s winter?

It’s summer now, so let’s make the most of it. As comedian Howard Kremer once pointed out, “Summah is a magical time. You’ve got to reach out and grab those summah moments. Don’t let it pass ya by.”

One of the best ways to experience the magic of summer in Manitoba is by heading to a festival. Not sure what’s going on and when? We’ve got you covered with a few details about some upcoming festivals.


Winnipeg International Jazz Festival

Various venues – Winnipeg, Man.

Dates: June 12-22

Cost: $0-$250

Line-up includes: St. Vincent, Gregory Porter, Arturo Sandoval, Ellis Marsalis, John Legend, Shad, Timber Timbre, Lady, Le1f, Killer Mike and more.

It’s the 25th annual instalment of this festival, and you can celebrate with a diverse lineup that includes everything from world renowned jazz musicians, to critically acclaimed indie-pop singers, to buzz-generating underground hip hop acts. The festival’s organizers have made it a point to keep all of the performances in the Exchange District, which will make venue-hopping a cinch. There’s also a photo exhibition commemorating the first 25 years of the festival. Being out in Birds Hill Park for the Winnipeg Folk Festival has its charm, but there’s also something nice about the jazz fest’s downtown location.


Dauphin’s Countryfest

Dauphin, Man.

Dates: June 26-29

Cost: $79 (Sold out, except for Thursday night’s kickoff party)

Line-up includes: Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts, The Band Perry, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Mavericks, The Bros. Landreth, JP Hoe, Federal Lights and more.

Speaking of 25th anniversaries, Dauphin’s Countryfest is celebrating a quarter-century of presenting Manitoba with quality country music. This year’s lineup includes some of the biggest names to come up in in recent years, including Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts and The Band Perry, alongside old favourites like Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Mavericks and Michelle Wright. There’s also a significant showing of Winnipeg acts, and for the WTF? component of the schedule, organizers have booked The Tea Party. In addition to the music, swimming, extreme freestyle motorcross, helicopter rides, a Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament and a mechanical bull are just some of the activities you can partake in.


Winnipeg Folk Festival

Birds Hill Park – Winnipeg, Man.

Dates: July 9-13

Cost: $53-$340

Lineup includes: Joan Baez, The Both (feat. Aimee Mann and Ted Leo), Ani DiFranco, Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, Bonnie Raitt, Sharon Van Etten, The Strumbellas, Bry Webb and more.

Say what you will about corporate sponsorships or how big it’s getting, and quibble about the lineup as much as you’d like, this is still the best festival to catch some great live music you might not otherwise get to see as well as bump into Phil, that guy you haven’t seen since high school graduation and always kinda wondered what happened to. That’s the beauty of Folk Fest–it’s pretty much the only thing in Winnipeg worth doing that weekend, so if you’re a music-loving Manitoban, most of the people you know are there.


Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival

Various venues – Winnipeg, Man.

Dates: July 16-27

Cost: Varies

Lineup includes: Dirty Catfish Brass Band, the JD Edwards Band, Indicator Indicator, Cannon Bros., Lost Weekend, The Other Brothers and more.

The only festival on this list where the focus isn’t on music, the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival will feature 178 companies performing at 30 venues over 12 days. One of the most popular Fringe festivals in all of North America, the Winnipeg Fringe is based on three key principles: The festival is non-juried; artists can present whatever they want on stage; and 100 per cent of the box office revenue goes back to the performing companies. Last year, the festival hit record attendance levels of more than 101,400, and a record $705,553.75 in box office revenue was returned to the performing companies. Be a part of the action as the Fringe takes over Winnipeg’s Old Market Square in July. See a show, grab a beer, listen to some live music and watch a guy juggle chainsaws.


Brandon Folk, Music & Art Festival

Keystone Centre Grounds – Brandon, Man.

Dates: July 25-27

Cost: $40-$80

Lineup includes: Martin Sexton, Cold Specks, Ben Caplan & the Casual Smokers, the DoneFors, Wax Mannequin and Matt Epp.

2014 marks the 30th annual festival, and in addition to the usual camping, concessions, family activities and silent auctions, organizers have added a Makers Market: a place for tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, artists, students and more to showcase their creations, connect, share ideas and explore new forms of technologies. Considerably smaller than its Winnipeg counterpart, the Brandon Folk Festival is worth checking out for singer-songwriter Martin Sexton and Cold Specks, the Polaris Prize-nominated band led by the alluring Al Spx. In August, that band will release its second album, Neuroplasticity. With any luck, festivalgoers will get to hear a few songs from the album before it comes out.


Fire & Water Music Festival

Lac du Bonnet, Man.

Dates: Aug. 1-3

Cost: $20-$60

Lineup includes: Bill Bourne, Andrew Neville, Black-Eyed Suzie, Micah Erenberg, Pigeon Park, Andrew Scott, The Psychics and more.

Established in 2007, the Fire & Water Music Festival takes place over the August long weekend and boasts a lineup that includes “every kind of music imaginable.” Many of this year’s musicians are from Manitoba, and the festival was still booking acts at press time. The festival offers three stages of music and workshops, children’s programming, displays by local visual artists, and artisan trade and crafts show, and of course, camping located adjacent to the festival grounds at the Lac du Bonnet Community Centre Grounds. This festival is quickly making a name for itself. A lot of great acts have played there in its short history.


Icelandic Festival of Manitoba

Gimli, Man.

Dates: Aug. 1-4

Cost: Various

Lineup includes: TBA

With a history that dates back to 1890, this festival is celebrating its 125 anniversary this year. Since January, the festival has held a number of events to commemorate the anniversary, events that, like the festival itself, celebrate Icelandic culture and heritage. Gimli is a beautiful lakeshore community that’s worth visiting any time of year, but particularly during this festival due to the variety of fun events organizers have planned: pancake breakfasts, volleyball tournaments, sandcastle contests, shot put competitions, skateboarding demonstrations, children’s entertainment, fireworks, foot races, art shows, music, poetry and more. Valhalla, I am coming.


MEME (Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition)

Various venues – Winnipeg, Man.

Dates: Aug. 14-17

Cost: TBA

Lineup includes: Danger Bay, Ghost Twin, Joe Silva, Riddim, Tubescreamer, US Marshall and more.

The people behind the Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition of Technology, Innovation & Creativity (MEMETIC) put on events all year long that draw anywhere from 150 to 500 people. But thousands flock to MEME, which happens this year at the Cube in Old Market Square as well as at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. More than 60 artists and professionals from five different countries will contribute to four days of events, which include workshops and performances at various indoor and outdoor venues in the Exchange District area. If you want to be exposed to cutting-edge digital creativity in music and audio-visual art, this is the festival for you.

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Rainbow Trout Music Festival

Oroseau Campground – St. Malo, Man.

Date: Aug. 15-17

Cost: $25-$65 (Sold out)

Line-up includes: Attica Riots, Mariachi Ghost, Mahogany Frog, Demetra, Surprise Party, Heartbeat City, Not Animals, ATLAAS and more.

Started by a group of friends who went camping one weekend in 2009 at an old gravel quarry, and wondered what it might look like if they returned the following year with a generator, sound gear and some bands to throw a party, the Rainbow Trout Music Festival has grown into the Manitoba festival with the most buzz surrounding it. Now located permanently on some private-owned land just south of St. Malo, this year’s all-local musical line-up includes more than 25 bands, along with craft vendors, art projects, workshops, swimming and more. Looking for tickets? Attendance is capped at 600 and the festival is now sold out. Don’t sleep on this one next year, folks.


Winnipeg BBQ and Blues Festival

Dates: Aug. 16-17

Place: Shaw Park – Winnipeg, Man.

Cost: $34.50-$69.50

Line-up includes: Robert Cray Band, Colin James, The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, Eddie Shaw, Big Dave McLean, Watermelon Slim, The Perpetrators, Romi Mayes and more.

Established in 2012 and held for the past two years at the Red River Exhibition Park, the Winnipeg BBQ and Blues Festival is moving to downtown Winnipeg for 2014. Boasting that it features “the best in local, national and international blues performers,” this year’s festival includes performances by Grammy Award-winning blues icon Robert Cray, Canadian singer-songwriter and guitar hero Colin James, as well as local acts like Big Dave McLean and The Perpetrators. The two-day, non-camping event also features the Winnipeg Free Press Pit Masters BBQ competition, comprised of four meat categories: pork butt, pork back or St. Louis ribs, chicken, and beef brisket. My mouth is watering already.


Morden Corn & Apple Festival

Dates: Aug. 22-24

Place: Community Park – Morden, Man.

Cost: Free

Line-up includes: The Color, Blue Collar Harmony Boys, Aaron Ruston, The Fugitives, The Torchmen and more.

A family-friendly event that’s been going strong for more than 45 years, the Morden Corn & Apple Festival is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway right before school starts up again. Pancake breakfasts, barbeques, corn on the cob and apple cider are some of the food and drink to enjoy, and historical tours of Morden, a petting zoo, children’s entertainment, an art exhibit and various races are some of the activities you can participate in. The best part? Most of it is free, including shuttle bus service and parking. There’s also musical entertainment by acts from throughout southern Manitoba: Winkler rock band The Color, MacGregor gospel group Blue Collar Harmony Boys, and southern gospel singer Aaron Ruston. Get in touch with your inner Mennonite and check it out.