The Winnipeg Folk Festival is heading into its 45th year, and you can bet your banjo there are people out there who have been to every single festival.

This article was published 3/7/2018 (1245 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Folk Festival is heading into its 45th year, and you can bet your banjo there are people out there who have been to every single festival.

But we also know there are people who have never made the trek to Birds Hill Provincial Park on the second weekend of July. Thinking of festing for the first time? Four veteran festival-goers from the Free Press share their tips for a happy, relaxing and rewarding folk fest experience.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files</p><p>Comfortable clothing is key to handling hot days and evenings at the folk fest.</p></p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files

Comfortable clothing is key to handling hot days and evenings at the folk fest.

HOW TO MAXIMIZE THE SCHEDULE

With 71 genre-spanning acts playing on nine stages, planning out how to best spend your days at the Winnipeg Folk Festival can feel overwhelming. Don’t worry. We got you.

First, be sure to pick up a program, download the folk fest app or print out the schedules so you have them on you. There are charging stations at the festival grounds in case your phone dies, but we also recommend wearing a watch for ease. You’re going to get a wristband tan anyway.

Acknowledge that you’re not going to see everyone and you might have to make some tough choices.

Identify three-to-five must-see acts, and build your schedule around them. Prioritize the artists who are only at Birds Hill for a good time and not a long time; not every artist has room in their tour routing to stay the weekend, which means you may only have one chance to see them perform.

If your must-see artists are sticking around all day or all weekend, you’re in luck: that usually means you will have multiple opportunities to see them, which can help ease potential conflicts. For example, let’s say you want to catch Courtney Barnett’s 10:55 p.m. mainstage set on Friday night, but you also want to see Rhye, who performs at Big Blue at Night (the festival’s alternative mainstage) at 10:30 p.m. Rhye isn’t playing at any other time, so you should consider checking out Barnett’s workshop with Waxahatchee, Lee Ranaldo and Real Estate on Friday at 3:45 p.m.

The daytime workshops are one of the things that make the folk fest so special. Getting a group of different artists on the same stage yields once-in-a-lifetime performances and collaborations. Some people just hang out at one daytime stage all day and are pleasantly rewarded.

Remember: the folk fest is a marathon, not a sprint. Seeing music from 11 a.m. to midnight straight is a pretty rigorous pace. Think logistically when planning your day. Consider how far of a walk it is between stages so you don’t feel rushed. Don’t forget to carve out time to eat. You won’t enjoy anyone’s set if you’re hangry.

Be open to discovery. But don’t be afraid to move on, either. Not feeling a new-to-you act after three songs? Head to a different stage and check out someone else. Sometimes a wander around the site can be your best musical guide.

Show some love to the tweener acts who keep the mainstage warm between sets, as well as to the artists who get the daytime stages rolling at 11 a.m.

If you have little folkies in tow, the Chickadee Big Top is where you’ll find children’s music and family activities during the day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Beware of festival FOMO (fear of missing out) or feeling like you "should" see some buzzed-about act because they got a glowing write-up on Pitchfork. Don’t worry about having someone else’s experience. Focus on building your own.

Oh, and just because you came with your friends doesn’t mean you have to stay with them.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Campers arrive at their campsites to kick off the 2016 Winnipeg Folk Fest at Birds Hill Park Wednesday morning-Kialey Schur sets up her tent on festival grounds. Festival music starts tomorrow and will run until July 10-July 06, 2016 -(Standup Photo)</p>

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Campers arrive at their campsites to kick off the 2016 Winnipeg Folk Fest at Birds Hill Park Wednesday morning-Kialey Schur sets up her tent on festival grounds. Festival music starts tomorrow and will run until July 10-July 06, 2016 -(Standup Photo)

HOW TO CAMP

The campground at the Winnipeg Folk Festival can be a magical place filled with friendly people, non-stop music art and a positive vibe that encapsulates what the festival is all about.

It’s a mind-expanding experience for many people, but being prepared ensures having a good time is even easier and will help you make the most out of the unique, talented community that springs up for a few days every summer.

It almost goes without saying that basics such as a tent, pillow, sleeping bag, warm clothes, raingear, a flashlight, sunscreen and bug repellent should be the first things to pack, but there always seems to be someone in a group that forgets one of those things. (And don’t forget those tent poles!)

Campers in the RV section don’t have to worry about poles, but they do need to have a special RV camping pass. Don’t show up in your motorhome without one.

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>One of the problems with camping at the folk fest is hauling all your stuff to and from the campsite.</p>

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

One of the problems with camping at the folk fest is hauling all your stuff to and from the campsite.

There are cold showers in the campsite and numerous water taps, so some soap and a towel will come in handy after sweaty days watching music and walking back and forth to the main festival site, which takes about 15 minutes, depending on where you camp.

Alcohol is allowed, but glass isn’t, so cans and plastic bottles are the way to go. Alcohol is not allowed on Pope’s Hill, which is sectioned off and features park police giving out exorbitantly expensive tickets for the crime of having open alcohol in public. (Pope’s Hill and the surrounding area is not leased by the Winnipeg Folk Festival, so it doesn’t have control of that section of the park.)

If you are bringing food, don’t forget a stove to cook it on, but if you want to save the hassle of shopping and hauling all that stuff in, food trucks are open in the campground 24/7.

And that brings us to the biggest pain in the sarong about camping at folk fest: hauling everything in. There are not enough parking spaces in the main festival camping area to accommodate all the campers, so many people have to park in overflow, and even that gets filled up, which means people have to park across Festival Drive— an even longer walk.

No matter where you park, you are going to have to walk. To help, bring a wheeler, wagon, trailer or any other sort of equipment that you can pack to move things. Ensure you have bungee chords to tie everything down. Balancing everything for the long hike (10-25 minutes depending on where you park and where you camp) over uneven terrain is the biggest challenge of the weekend.

And you also have to get that stuff out. Cars used to be allowed to drive into the campground on Mondays, but that has been prohibited the last few years.

The campground opens at 8 a.m. Wednesday, but you can get into the West Gate of Birds Hill Provincial Park at 7 a.m. Police do not allow lineups on Highway 59. The lineup is usually long so plan to wait a couple hours or so.

People enjoy the Winnipeg Folk Festival despite the brief spot of rain at Birds Hill Provincial Park on Saturday, July 11, 2015. Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press</p>

People enjoy the Winnipeg Folk Festival despite the brief spot of rain at Birds Hill Provincial Park on Saturday, July 11, 2015. Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press

WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK

The dining options at the Winnipeg Folk Festival have only improved with every passing year. The old "something for everyone" cliché holds true, whether you’re thinking healthy or veering toward decadent. Food stalls offer up familiar fare, such as pizza from Santa Lucia and Skinner’s hotdogs and fries, and more adventurous dishes, such as savoury and sweet crepes from Kawaii and Sukothai’s pad puk with deep-fried tofu.

Vegans and vegetarians are treated well, as are those trying to avoid gluten.

A good lunchtime pick to keep you fuelled up for the afternoon is the poké bowl from Chosabi; the Hawaiian dish packs a ton of flavour — plus veggies, rice and protein — into a convenient bowl. As you roam the site, a gourmet popsicle from the folks at Pop Cart makes an awesome treat to beat the heat.

You might want to save the more elaborate items — the kind that require a plate and cutlery — for when you’re more likely to be planted on a tarp at mainstage in the evening (we’re looking at you, butter chicken from East India Company).

A trip to folk fest without a deep-fried cinnamon-and-sugar Whale’s Tail is like a trip to the fair without Those Little Doughnuts.

Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros play at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in Birds Hill Park on Thursday, July 9, 2015. </p>

Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros play at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in Birds Hill Park on Thursday, July 9, 2015.

It’s tempting to try to sample all 15 booths (nacho perogies from Better Than Baba’s? Tell me more...) but unless you’re made of money, save your splurge for dinner and take your own lunch/snacks, especially if you’re attending with kids. A sandwich or wrap with carrot sticks, grapes and crackers and cheese are easy to plan (though it’s worth nothing that Jardin St. Léon will be serving hummus/veggie platters, fresh fruit and baguettes with butter).

Pack light, because you’ll be shlepping it all over the park; reusable, washable snack and sandwich bags are environmentally friendly and take up no space. Concerned about keeping perishables cool? A frozen water bottle serves as an ice pack and provides you with ice-cold hydration as it melts.

And staying hydrated is imperative: there are 11 water stations scattered throughout the site, marked with blue flags. The festival does not sell bottled water so be sure to take your own refillable bottle (not glass!) and fill it often.

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>One of the first aid stations is seen on the Winnipeg Folk Festival grounds Thursday. This year, medics are being equipped with Naloxone kits to counter opioid overdoses.</p><p>170706 - Thursday, July 06, 2017.</p>

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

One of the first aid stations is seen on the Winnipeg Folk Festival grounds Thursday. This year, medics are being equipped with Naloxone kits to counter opioid overdoses.

170706 - Thursday, July 06, 2017.

Beer doesn’t count as replenishing your fluids, of course, but it would hardly be a summer festival without a brew or two. The prices at the fest would only be acceptable if they were serving local craft beers (last year it was $7 for Alberta-brewed Big Rock products), but regardless, there’s almost always a crowd at the site’s two taverns. They’re a great place to get out of the sun and catch up with friends without disturbing audience members at a workshop stage.

And you don’t have to miss out on the music. Prime seating at the Liquor Mart Tavern allows a view of the Big Bluestem stage, while at the Big Rock Tavern, you can snag a siteline to the Snowberry Field stage. Make sure you have cash — you can’t use plastic to purchase beer/liquor tickets.

A new addition to the fest this year is the Habanero Sombrero food truck, which will be in the tavern. A trio of tacos with a cold beer and live music — what could be better?

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Don’t forget to build your own unforgettable experiences when attending the Winnipeg Folk Festival this weekend.</p>

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Don’t forget to build your own unforgettable experiences when attending the Winnipeg Folk Festival this weekend.

WHAT TO WEAR AND BRING (OR, HOW TO NOT BE MISERABLE)

Much of what is appealing about folk fest, sometimes even moreso than the music, is the experience. And you’re experience is going to be bad if you don’t dress properly and bring the right supplies.

Keep an eye on the forecast before you head out to Birds Hill and plan accordingly — this may seem obvious, but some folkies would rather pack light than pack smart and that is, in most cases, a mistake.

Rain is never fun, but it’s the sunny days that provide the most problems. It can also get excruciatingly hot out there, so keeping hydrated is imperative and having a hat is a necessity. A lot of the daytime stages have minimal coverage in terms of shade, so there’s a good chance you’ll be exposed to the elements and you’ll want to be prepared — bringing a light cover-up to protect your shoulders and back is an easy, small thing to toss in your bag and will help you enormously. And, if you’re feeling ill, stop in at the medical tent as soon as you can to get checked out.

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Check your schedule to find a less crowded alternative to the mainstage.</p>

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Check your schedule to find a less crowded alternative to the mainstage.

With rain, well, there’s not a lot you can do other than wear waterproof everything and hope for the best. Or hunker down in the tavern for a few drinks while the bad weather passes.

Regardless of the weather, these five things should always be in your pack: sunscreen, bugspray, water bottle, snacks and toilet paper. And remember: no glass containers!

For basic, everyday clothing — wear what is comfortable. Don’t worry about being trendy or cute by rocking the Coachella line from H&M — that adorable romper isn’t going to be so much fun when you’re fully naked peeing in a scorching-hot portable toilet. Trust us, comfy separates are the way to go. As for footwear, the same rule applies — comfort over fashion. The stages can be quite far apart, so you’re going to be spending a lot of your day walking on uneven ground (especially if you’re doing the trek in from the campground) and you don’t want to be dealing with foot pain.

Also, it gets cold at night, so bring a jacket, and if you can squeeze it in, a long pair of pants. When that 28 C daytime high dips to a chilly 15 or 16, you’ll thank us.

Toilet time is not something a lot of people want to talk about, but we’re gonna. Bring toilet paper. The potties at folk fest are usually well stocked, but do you want to take that risk? Also, toilet paper can double up as napkins or tissue if the need should arise.

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>There’s lots of walking between stages at the folk fest, so following the directions will make the weekend easier on your feet.</p>

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

There’s lots of walking between stages at the folk fest, so following the directions will make the weekend easier on your feet.

Lastly, seating; there are a lot of options here. You can bring a tarp or a blanket; this is a folk fest tradition and, while it doesn’t provide any support for your bum or your back, tarps are waterproof and you can also buy blankets that have plastic on the underside (a great investment!) so at the very least, you’ll stay pretty dry. You can also bring a chair; we like chairs because they keep us off the ground and make sitting for several hours a bit easier. Folk fest has guidelines as to how high your chair can be (no more than two feet tall, so as to not block anyone’s view), and anything taller must move to the side area designated for higher chairs. There are also inflatable bench-like seats that look very silly but feel like sitting on a cloud. Do not mock the people using these bags, they are more comfortable than you’ll ever be.

The folk fest store sells a lot of these items, so if you forget your seating or looking to upgrade, you’ll be able to buy something on site.

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca

rob.williams@freepress.mb.ca

jill.wilson@freepress.mb.ca

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Manager of audience engagement for news

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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Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.

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Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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