There will be no Winnipeg Folk Festival this summer.

There will be no Winnipeg Folk Festival this summer.

On Wednesday, festival organizers said continued uncertainty about COVID-19 pandemic restrictions has made it impossible to host the annual music event, which had been scheduled for July 8-11 at Birds Hill Provincial Park.

It is the second consecutive year the pandemic has forced the cancellation of the folk fest, which was established in 1974.

"It was really hard, but it was becoming more and more obvious that it wasn't going to be possible, looking at all the health restrictions and getting the feedback from our audience, in terms (of) what they wanted. We knew it was the right thing to do," said executive director Lynne Skromeda.

A survey launched in March received 4,500 responses, with the highlight being audience members and volunteers wanting a full folk fest experience — but only if it could safe for attendees, performers, volunteers and staff.

"They want to go to the seven stages, and they want daytime stages and nighttime stages, and we just can't provide that experience this year," Skromeda said.

The folk fest now turns its attention to a smaller, three-evening concert event with Canadian performers, slated for Aug. 13-15 at its main stage at Birds Hill.

However, there remain many COVID-19 obstacles Manitoba and the world must overcome for such an event to happen.

"It would be a reduced-capacity audience, which we can't determine quite yet because of the moving health restrictions, but it's a big area that would allow us to spread out a lot more," Skromeda said.

"We think there might be a potential for us to be able to have people in person for a live-music experience there," she said. "It still is really up in the air. August could still not happen, but we're able to wait this out because it is a smaller-sized event."

Just don't call the potential August event the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

"This is not the folk fest moving its date to August. This is a cancellation of the folk festival and a new event that will be more like a concert happening in August," Skromeda said.

Folk fest organizers announced the potential concert series Wednesday to allow those who wish to camp at Birds Hill Provincial Park to reserve spots for the Aug. 13-15 dates. The province opens summer camping reservations for Birds Hill on Monday.

The folk fest's campgrounds will remain closed.

Festival staff and its board of directors have been riding a pandemic-era roller coaster since cancelling the 2020 event, Skromeda said.

"There was the vaccinations coming, the weather was good, everybody was feeling really positive. But as January wore on, it was that realization that, wait a second, this still is an extension of 2020, we're not quite there yet," she said.

"Then the vaccinations started coming, we got more excited again, and then they weren't coming fast enough and everyone dipped again," she said.

"It's been very challenging and been very hard on everyone."


Alan Small

Alan Small

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.

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