Folk fest fun for all ages

Crafts, music and dancing: ‘it’s great to be able to bring my kids’

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BIRDS HILL PARK — Under the shade of the Chickadee Big Top, Shelagh Graham had her hands full — a clothespin dragonfly, a coffee filter butterfly and a series of googly-eyed “inventions” made of found objects. At a nearby picnic table, four-year-old Corniglia was busy making a new piece of art to add to the pile.

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BIRDS HILL PARK — Under the shade of the Chickadee Big Top, Shelagh Graham had her hands full — a clothespin dragonfly, a coffee filter butterfly and a series of googly-eyed “inventions” made of found objects. At a nearby picnic table, four-year-old Corniglia was busy making a new piece of art to add to the pile.

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Alice Mierau, 6, plays under a parachute during the Winnipeg Folk Festival Saturday.

“It’s a kitty,” she announced, while drawing whiskers on a piece of orange foam. After a few minutes she passed “catman” off to her mom and wandered over to another table covered in pipe cleaners and markers.

“We found our way here and now we can’t leave,” Graham said with a laugh. “I knew that people spent a lot of time here, you’d walk past and see the same people, but I totally understand why, she’s really excited about each and every (craft).”

Graham has attended the Winnipeg Folk Festival in the past, but this was her first year enjoying the event with her daughter.

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Cornigliai Graham, 4, makes one of several crafts under the shade of The Chickadee Big Top.

“It’s different,” she said. “We’re figuring out how to get her to the workshops to do some dancing — bubbles go a long way.”

Over at the painting station, Carmen Ponto was having a similar experience. The lifelong folkie was looking forward to reliving some of her childhood memories with her own kids, Elanor and Finley.

“For me, this is so special,” she said. “My parents aren’t around anymore and I came with my dad and it was always such a lovely bonding experience, so it’s great to be able to bring my kids.”

Besides checking out the craft tent, the family was planning to attempt some late night dancing during Saturday’s main stage concert.

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Shelagh Graham shows off crafts her four-year-old daughter, Cornigliai, made in the kids tent. Graham has attended the Winnipeg Folk Festival in the past, but this was her first year enjoying the event with her daughter.

“Hopefully they don’t get too cranky,” Ponto said. “We promised Eleanor some dancing and she’s been excited about that.”

The festival’s Chickadee Big Top is a busy, colourful place full of onstage entertainment, crafts, lawn games and kids big and small romping around together. Volunteer Trinette Konge was glad to be back in the mix after a two year hiatus.

“It’s a wonderful place to hang out for all ages,” said Konge, who has been a festival volunteer for 15 years. “For the first time in my memory, (craft supplies) have run out because it’s so popular, not only with the kids wanting to make things, but the parents want to make one too — it’s really exciting to see all the involvement.”

Good times a flowin’

Little Brown Jug had a mammoth task in the lead up to this year’s Winnipeg Folk Festival. Since taking over the beer contract for Manitoba’s largest summer festival six months ago, the small local brewery has been busy brewing enough beer and filling enough kegs to quench the thirst of tens of thousands of partygoers.

Little Brown Jug had a mammoth task in the lead up to this year’s Winnipeg Folk Festival. Since taking over the beer contract for Manitoba’s largest summer festival six months ago, the small local brewery has been busy brewing enough beer and filling enough kegs to quench the thirst of tens of thousands of partygoers.

“It’s a big responsibility,” Little Brown Jug founder Kevin Selch said with a laugh. “We could not be the ones that stood in the way of people’s good times.”

For the William Avenue taproom, it was also big shoes to fill. For years, Big Rock Brewery, a national company based in Calgary, was the sole provider of suds in the festival. To deliver on the festival’s goal of localizing the drinks menu, Little Brown Jug had to plan to the nth degree.

Serving three different beers — their 1919 Belgian Pale Ale, Golden Ale and newly developed Folk Fest Lager — meant a lot of large batches and logistics. Making sure the beer flowed freely at the festival itself was another monstrous job.

“With site-wide licensing… we figured it was going to be a potentially bigger year than they’ve ever had before,” Selch said. “So, we built some overdraft systems to be able to pour the beer and we have quite a large team on-site to make sure it never stops pouring.”

On Saturday, the hard work seemed to have already paid off tenfold.

“So many people are excited to be back, there’s an extra level of energy,” said Kristin Scheffield, Little Brown Jug’s head of corporate. “The hope is that we are contributing to people’s experience and then maybe they’ll come check us out more.”

“A lot of people know who we are and a lot of people don’t know who we are,” Selch added. “This is an opportunity for us to reach new customers that we would never be able to in such a large and enjoyable atmosphere.”

The Chickadee music schedule is also an all-ages affair. Earlier in the day, Inuit throat singing sisters Inuksuk Mackay and Tiffany Ayalik put on an exceptional performance of sweet storytelling and ethereal sounds. Clad in black lacy outfits and standing hip-to-hip, the pair filled the large tent with live-looped vocals and guttural chanting.

Over at Green Ash, the day started with a dance party courtesy of bands Zrada, TEKE::TEKE and Trio Svin. The side stage dance pit bounced along to the wonderfully chaotic mix of jazzy Eastern-European melodies, energetic Japanese surf rock and growly Nordic bluegrass. A standing ovation and an encore unsurprisingly ensued.

The vibes at Bluestem were slightly more low-key. A mostly local workshop featuring singer-songwriters Andy Shauf, Leith Ross, JayWood and Slow Leaves made for a slow, dreamy listen.

The crowd at Snowberry spilled over the walkway and towards the food vendor for a jammy afternoon workshop full of electronic-infused harmonica, banjos and fiddles. The “Delusions of Banjer” show lineup included bands Gangstagrass, Moontricks and Tall Tall Trees.

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Carmen Ponto and daughter Elanor, 2, spend some time at the painting station. Ponto is a lifelong folkie and loves seeing the festival through the eyes of her children, Elanor and Finley

Back at Bluestem, there was more chatting than playing during a workshop with a trio of Polaris Music Prize winners. A very inquisitive Jeremy Dutcher quizzed his stagemates, Lido Pimienta and Cadence Weapon, on their musical purpose and process — at one point he joked that the show was his audition for CBC Radio’s Q program. Pimienta’s daughter was onstage throughout the set, wearing pink noise-cancelling headphones and leaning into her mom.

At press time, Saturday’s forecasted thunderstorm had not materialized. The skies remained blue heading into a main stage show featuring Dervish, Jeremy Dutcher, Sudan Archives, Japanese Breakfast and closing act Portugal. The Man.

eva.wasney@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @evawasney

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Festival attendees kick back and soak in the atmosphere.
Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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