BIRDS HILL PARK — The Winnipeg Folk Festival put the finishing touches on another successful event by paying tribute to folk icon Woody Guthrie.

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BIRDS HILL PARK — The Winnipeg Folk Festival put the finishing touches on another successful event by paying tribute to folk icon Woody Guthrie.

Walking Woody’s Road featured Mary Gauthier, Jimmy LaFave, Ellis Paul, Eliza Gilkyson and David Bromberg celebrating the music of the folk legend, whom would have turned 100 this year.

The Guthrie tribute wrapped up the Sunday night mainstage that included blues-soul powerhouse Ruthie Foster and indie folk singer-songwriter Iron & Wine — Samuel Bean — and his band.

The five-day festival attracted an average paid attendance of 10,608 people a day, ranging from 9,889 on Wednesday to 11,907 on Saturday. Sunday’s estimated attendance was 10,091.

The cumulative total of 53,044 was down from last year’s record five-day crowd of 59,553. Five-day pass holders are counted five times.

Attendees were attracted to the festival by a roster of artists from all over the world and the opportunity to hang out with friends, both new and old.

The music site is one thing, but the festival campground remains a whole different experience; it’s a unique environment filled with a community spirit not found anywhere else. Living with 6,000 creative people in an unrestricted friendly atmosphere is amazing to be a part of and is one of the highlights of the festival for me every year.

The festival funds the various installations in the campground and places like the Juke Joint Hideaway, the Castle Boys’ structure — a giant Mayan pyramid — and Big Games — giant versions of games like Scrabble, Battleship, backgammon and Jenga — are welcome attractions and social hubs.

Music is the main reason the festival exists, but the social aspect of the event is almost equally important.

This is my 19th year attending and camping at the festival and I was once again exposed to some fantastic music, made some new friends, reunited with old ones and had a lot of laughs.

Here are a look at some of the weekend highlights and observations from myself and Free Press writers Jill Wilson, Jen Zoratti and Bartley Kives.

• Favourite mainstage sets: Billy Bragg, Feist, Tedeschi Trucks Band, K’Naan, Junior Brown, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, Devotchka.

• Favourite daytime shows: Gone Just Like a Train (Friday, Green Ash); Intergalactic (Friday, Big Bluestem); You Got to Fight For Your Right (Friday, Green Ash); Countrified Pickins (Saturday, Snowberry); Funny Haha (Saturday, Green Ash) Take a Load Off Me Tribute to Levon Helm (Sunday, Green Ash); The World Accordion to Us (Sunday, Big Bluestem); Intercontinentals (Sunday, Green Ash); Ellis Paul (Sunday, Little Stage on the Prairie)

• Favourite Big Blue @ Night shows: Besh O Drom (Friday); Elliot Brood, Blitzen Trapper (Saturday)

• Best campground sets: Andrew Neville, Gabriel Field (Friday); D. Rangers, The Afterparty (Saturday).

• Best tweener: Winnipeg soul-rock sibling duo Sarah and Christian Dugas, aided by guitarist Damon Mitchell and bassist Sky Onosson (Friday).

• Biggest sellers in the music store: Kim Churchill, Matt Andersen, The Head and the Heart, Sketch, Blitzen Trapper, Chic Gamine, Charles Bradley.

• Take this solo, please: "Somebody take it or you know what’s going to happen — drum solo, which is all right where I come from," Junior Brown asking for someone to take a solo spot during the Gone Just Like a Train workshop, Green Ash (Friday).

• Kumbaya … no, really: When Malian guitarist Sidi Toure contributed to a few bars of the ’60s folk spiritual Kumbaya to an uplifting group jam among other African musicians, it was probably the first time the song has been used unironically since, well, the ’60s.

• Where are we, the MTS Centre?: There were plenty of complaints about the increase in beer prices from $5 to $6, but it didn’t stop people from drinking, which means the festival will probably post more than the $114,000 profit it made last year on alcohol sales.

• Overheard in the beer tent: "My sister said she wanted to organize a sit-in and write protest songs about the increase in beer prices. It’s the folk fest way."

• No Nickelback, please: For some reason the music being piped into the beer tent wasn’t from the mainstage, but sounded like a bad modern rock radio station; one friend even heard the Nickelback song "Photograph." People are going to socialize in the beer tent during the mainstage no matter what, so even if they won’t pump in the mainstage music, we don’t need to hear crappy post-grunge.

• "Jackass," Pope’s Hill edition:

Someone broke his collarbone falling out of a shopping cart while riding it down Pope’s Hill Saturday morning. Bad move, hippy.

» Winnipeg Free Press

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 9, 2012