Bright lights, big sound and chrome beach balls

Monica Derksen’s Current Festival will transform The Forks into a chandeliered VIP lounge with top local bands, food, drink and culture

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It’s a luxuriously local event three years in the making.

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It’s a luxuriously local event three years in the making.

After multiple pandemic delays, the inaugural Current Festival is finally moving into The Forks next Friday for a three-day event that’s being billed as “unapologetically extra.”

“When I talk to people about it, they’re excited about three L’s,” festival director Monica Derksen says. “The location being convenient, the luxury of it, and the local aspects.”

Supplied

Fireside Design Build is creating the top-drawer space for VIP ticketholders. ‘It’s a fun opportunity to flex our creative muscles,’ says company co-owner Jaclyn Wiebe.

Derksen’s title doesn’t quite capture the scope of her role. For financial reasons, she had to lay off staff at the beginning of the public health crisis and has been operating largely as a one-woman show — co-ordinating everything from the music to the design to the marketing.

“I had more time to do things, so it wasn’t quite as hurried… but I’ve had to do 80 per cent of it myself,” she says. “It was a big learning curve and I’m pretty proud of how it’s all coming together.”

An event manager by trade, Derksen has had a hand in the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade, Table for 1200 and ManyFest. Current is the culmination of her affinity for aesthetics and desire to offer Winnipeggers a summer festival experience sans camping and food trucks.

With the help of Fireside Design Build — a local firm responsible for some of the city’s trendiest restaurants — the Forks will be transformed into a colourful playground full of chandeliers, fringe and giant chrome beach balls. The temporarily extravagant project is a first for Fireside.

“It’s a fun opportunity to flex our creative muscles,” says company co-owner Jaclyn Wiebe. “We don’t normally take on projects that aren’t restaurants or houses, but because this is essentially a restaurant under some tents we can offer quite a bit here.”

The grounds will include a pop-up restaurant under the canopy of the CN Stage with a menu created by chef Ben Kramer, a cocktail bar operated by Nomad Bar Box and a luxury lounge and disco forest for VIP ticketholders. Creating short-term and attractive open-air spaces that also functioned properly during a music festival was a challenge.

“You can get swarmed with hundreds of people between songs,” Wiebe says. “We had to design a bar (and kitchen) that functions really, really efficiently within this space.”

The food, or rather, eats menu includes charcuterie, salads and meat or veggie main courses; while the sips station (bar) will feature custom cocktails, beer by Sookram’s, Nonsuch and Barn Hammer Brewing companies and wine curated by Ellement Wine & Spirits and sommelier Megan Tymura.

Red Photo Co.

For the three-day Current Festival at the Forks, Derksen says it’s all about the three Ls. ‘The location being convenient, the luxury of it, and the local aspects.’

The sounds program is an all-local lineup with headliners Begonia, Royal Canoe, William Prince and the Bros. Landreth. The decision to highlight Manitoba talent stems from pandemic logistics.

“When we initially started we were sort of defining local as Canadian and we had some pretty big acts booked,” Derksen says. Last year’s travel restrictions saw her booking closer to home and she stuck with the approach for this year’s festival. “If we have a budget for a stage show, let’s give it to local artists… that’s the direction we fully went and it ended up being better than I could have imagined.”

In addition to the music, there will be a photobooth onsite, mocktail-making workshops, lawn games, body painting, hoop dancing lessons and a panel discussion with several Manitoba authors.

The festival is adults-only with tickets starting at $100 for a day pass and $200 for a weekend pass. Derksen says she is hoping to see 3,000 to 5,000 people through the gates each day to keep the event intimate.

Tickets are still available and can be purchased online or at the onsite box office.

Current is a cashless event. Festivalgoers will receive a wristband that can be preloaded and used to purchase food, drinks and merchandise during the weekend. Vendors will also be accepting debit and credit payments.

A bike valet will be set up atop the Forks parkade and Derksen encourages attendees to carpool, take a taxi or make use of public transportation.

“The point of having an urban festival is to make it as convenient as possible for people,” she says. “And also allowing people to have a drink or two without having to worry about how they’re getting home.”

Supplied

The music lineup includes local stars, including Begonia, Royal Canoe and the Bros. Landreth. ‘If we have a budget for a stage show, let’s give it to local artists,’ says director Monica Derksen.

After more than three years of planning, it’s a bit surreal to see her vision coming to life.

“It’s been quite the trip,” Derksen says. “And I’m feeling confident that this is an even better festival than we could have imagined in 2020.”

eva.wasney@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @evawasney

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Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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