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Typically at this time of the summer, there is a little festival lull in the city. The Winnipeg Fringe Festival has either wrapped up or is well on its way to completion and Folklorama is a week or two in the future, with folk fest and jazz fest already in the books for the year.

But this summer, the Canada Games is going to fill that gap with not only two weeks of athletic competition, but also 11 days of music, art and culture.

The Canada Games Festival, which kicks off July 29 and runs until Aug. 12 at The Forks, features an impressive lineup of activities and performances from some of the best musical artists this country has to offer, including Serena Ryder, Brett Kissel, Coeur de Pirate, Loverboy, Alan Doyle, the Sheepdogs and the Trews.

And the best part? Everything is free.

Each night of music is programmed by province, rather than by genre. It’s an idea Jason Smith, director of special events for the games, says was the jumping-off point for the entire festival.

"The original concept was — because it’s the 50th (anniversary) of the Canada Games and Canada’s 150th — the idea of having each day partnered with a different province. We ultimately wanted a cultural festival, meaning not just a music festival, and it was really important that we tried to engage as many different types of art and culture as we could. But the original idea started with having a different province help us program and showcase their talent each night," he says.

"The fun part about that so far has been typically when we program events, we would have a fairly standardized programming, meaning we’d have a country night, a rock night, an oldies night, which is a pretty tried and true formula," Smith explains.

"But for this one, it was really fun for us because we got to program a variety of different artists with the tie between them all just being their home province, so it allows us to have, I believe, a really interesting cross-section of performances each night, so that anyone who comes down on any given night should be able to find something that they can appreciate and hopefully find some new stuff they haven’t heard of before."

Vanessa Heins photo</p><p>Canadian band The Sheepdogs are part of a Canadian lineup at the Canada Games Festival at The Forks.</p>

Vanessa Heins photo

Canadian band The Sheepdogs are part of a Canadian lineup at the Canada Games Festival at The Forks.

Smith adds the main stage and satellite stage areas are both fully licensed, so adults can have a wine or beer with their families and not be confined to a beer tent.

There are nine local artists on the main stage and six more on the satellite stage representing our fair province on Manitoba’s day on Aug. 7, but the most anticipated performance for many is the Crash Test Dummies with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

"The Crash Test Dummies performing with the WSO for free at The Forks on the Manitoba day is, for me, a pretty big get, just because we weren’t sure if they’d agree to come back, they haven’t played together in over five years now," says Smith.

"Actually, I’m really proud of the way all the programming came out — we put together a list of what would be our ideal programming for each day and in all honesty, we got all but maybe two or three, so I was super happy how well it worked out, especially considering we started programming it at the end of last year," he continues.

Because of the double anniversary celebrations — the Canada Games’ 50th and Canada 150 — Smith says Winnipeg has lucked out with extra funding to put on this exceptionally large festival, which he says is "substantially larger" than usual for the games.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Crash Test Dummies frontman Brad Roberts and the rest of his band are performing at the Canada Games Festival at The Forks.</p>


Crash Test Dummies frontman Brad Roberts and the rest of his band are performing at the Canada Games Festival at The Forks.

In addition to the music, there are dozens of family-friendly activities going on during the daytime hours and several Canada 150 signature projects such as a virtual-reality exhibit and the Voices from Nunavut installation, which features iPads that display different views of living in Northern Canada.

"The bands are obviously the big draw for a lot of folks, but from the family perspective, there’s a ton of really interesting opportunities for people to get up close to these Canada 150 projects that are touring the country... once this Canada 150 year is done, these projects will go away and won’t be coming back to Manitoba," Smith says.

Popular artisan market Third + Bird will also be joining in on the festivities, setting up a 30-tent pop-up market the last three nights of the festival and, for something completely different, the AquaVan from the Vancouver Aquarium will be on site with sea creatures kids can interact with.

"There’s just a real cross-section of interesting stuff for people to do, so I hope they come check it out."

For more information, including the full schedule of events and musical acts, visit canadagames.ca.

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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