Country proud and loud
Countryfest crowd and musicians were roaring to get back to live performance in Dauphin
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DAUPHIN — Canada Day at Dauphin’s Countryfest is as loud and proud as ever.
Canadian flags were waving in the breeze, folks were wearing red and white and there was even a best-dressed Canadian contest.
Musicians — all of whom this weekend hail from Canada — earned quick cheers for celebrating the 155th anniversary of Confederation or just an old-fashioned “yee-haw” from a crowd, some of whom wore Maple Leaf ribbons from their cowboy hats.
Music roared from Countryfest’s mainstage Friday for the first time since 2019 and singer Terri Clark mentioned how much better music is now compared to playing live-streamed shows on the internet during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown.
“I’m so glad to be back and we can be side-by-side, enjoying music again,” she said shortly after playing her ’90s hit Emotional Girl during her evening set Friday. “There’s nothing that can beat the live connection I’m having with you tonight.
“We are so glad to be back on the highway.”
Clark was part of a Friday lineup that included Winnipeg’s Don Amero, Jess Moskaluke, Aaron Goodvin and headliner Paul Brandt that got the pandemic-delayed weekend party started.
For Moskaluke, a Juno Award-winner who grew up not far from Dauphin in Langenburg, Sask., Friday at Countryfest was a bit of Canada Day and Thanksgiving rolled into one.
“You don’t know how much of a big deal this is,” she told the crowd between songs during her late-afternoon set. “We’ve had this contract to play Dauphin for two, three years.”
It didn’t take long for Countryfest fans to get back into the event’s country-rock rhythms Friday, but there was a new curiosity awaiting ticketholders and campground partygoers who are more used to booze-fuelled bashes.
Delta 9, the Winnipeg-based cannabis company has parked a trailer bedecked in the retailer’s colours and is open for business just outside the entrance closest to the mainstage.
It says its RV is Canada’s first mobile cannabis store.
While country legend Merle Haggard famously opened his 1969 hit Okie From Muskogee with the line “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee,” cannabis retailers such as Delta 9 and Tweed, which also has a promotional display at Countryfest, believe partygoers at Dauphin most certainly do.
Pot use at Manitoba music festivals and concerts is one of the worst-kept secrets in music, and cannabis companies in Canada have been trying to destigmatize marijuana products since the federal government relaxed laws in 2018.
Marshall Posner, chief marketing officer for Delta 9, said Friday afternoon that traffic was quiet, but the familiar pungent odour that cropped up from time to time this weekend at Countryfest sure didn’t come from skunks, which likely hightail it out of the area long before microphones are plugged in.
“We’re just getting our feet wet,” said Posner. “We think (sales) will grow from year to year.”
Delta 9 began legally distributing medical cannabis in 2014 and in retail outlets in 2018 when the federal government eased marijuana laws.
Despite that experience, it took the company way more than a strong pickup truck to pull the trailer onto the Countryfest grounds to open for business,
“There definitely were challenges. There were many different layers (of regulation),” he says.
Posner estimated it took six months of talks to gain approval from the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, the Rural Municipality of Dauphin and the Countryfest board for the mobile store to park its trailer and welcome customers.
Provincial officials inspected the trailer Wednesday and approved its secure vault at the front of the unit where products are stored, Posner says.
“We have to follow the same rules as a bricks-and-mortar store,” he says, adding the trailer’s next Manitoba stop will be the Rockin’ the Fields rock festival July 29-31 in Minnedosa.
Countryfest continues for the rest of the weekend with Dean Brody and Dallas Smith headlining tonight and Johnny Reid winding up the festivities Sunday night.
Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.