The Winnipeg Folk Festival has been bringing people together since its 1974 inauguration, when it was intended as a one-off celebration of Winnipeg’s centennial under the Canadian government. Amidst the setting of Birds Hill Provincial Park — Treaty 1 Territory and homeland to the Métis nation — the free event was a massive success, with an audience of 22,000 over the three-day weekend. The festival has since grown in scale (exceeding 60,000 festivalgoers annually) as well as in scope, evolving into a charitable, not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to its folk roots, presenting concerts and providing community support and outreach programs all year round.
Held over the second week of July, the festival traditionally begins Wednesday night and plays on through Sunday. Over nine stages, the festival offers fans of bluegrass, blues, folk, indie, Celtic and French-Canadian music a smorgasbord of talent to take in. Camping is a must at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, as the campgrounds are known for their late night jam sessions; the performance art, parades, workshops, and non-stop drum circles make it resemble a miniature Burning Man, according to festivalgoers.
There is a long bill of past Winnipeg Folk Fest performers, with American folk songstress Joan Baez, reggae legend Burning Spear and songwriting icon Elvis Costello all rocking the festival stages in the early 2000s. Canadian alt-country artist Kathleen Edwards celebrated her 25th birthday on stage in 2003 as she played tunes from her debut album. Winnipeg Folk brings together emerging talent with well-established artists, putting the spotlight on folk roots as well as contemporary reflections on the genre.