It was a good time as usual, except for a few occasions I wanted to shake my fist and shout at a passing cloud but thankfully didn't. To sum up, it was much more of an indie pop festival this year, but there were enough moments of folk to satisfy me, mostly. I only wish they'd finally realize they don't need to include the festival campground as part of the Main Stage audience, but at this point I'm sure any complaints are falling on deafened ears.
This year we managed to leave a day earlier than we usually do thanks to Monday being the Fourth of July holiday in the U.S. As part of our preparations we recently bought a new used 2006 Chrysler minivan that had plenty of room which we were later fortunate to have. We managed to line up various sitters for two or our dogs and our cat, and took our dog Ceilidh with us to Canada. So as we left we made a couple of stops to leave a dog, Missy with Auntie Shar out on the farm in the country, and Tucker with our friend Peter in Minneapolis. We got off to our usual delayed start, but we still were able to get on the interstate out of the Twin Cities a little before 1pm.
|Tucker riding shotgun as we prepare to depart|
Our destination was the home of Donna and Terry on the south side of Winnipeg near the Perimeter Highway. Donna loves our dogs and was looking forward to taking care of Ceilidh while we were camping at the folk fest, and one of the reasons we left a day earlier than usual was so we could spend an extra day visiting and also give Ceilidh time to get used to her home away from home while Donna was taking care of her. We arrived before sunset and were warmly greeted and Ceilidh was happy to be out of the van, finally. We settled down to a late dinner that Terry had made that Donna saved for us and then we relaxed for another hour or so before turning in for a good night's sleep.
|A very full minivan!|
After all that we went back to Donna and Terry's house and cleaned up, and we then we all had dinner and spent the evening talking and just hanging out. Ceilidh was getting settled in, but she was still nervous around Terry who was a bit mortified, but we told him that's the way she is with big guys no matter how nice they are. Ceilidh was doing fine otherwise though and I later at Donna's suggestion took her for a walk around the neighborhood where we found a nice walkway through a park and she barked at a kid on a skateboard because it wasn't natural for people to move like that. She does it home too, so it wasn't a surprise that she didn't like them in Winnipeg either. We then turned in for the night after a nice glass of wine.
We were going to leave bright and early Wednesday morning for the folk fest to get a better place in the festival campground line-up, but we decided instead to take our time this year and didn't leave Winnipeg until after 9am. It didn't take us long to get to Bird's Hill Park via the Perimeter Highway that runs along the eastern outskirts of Winnipeg and we found ourselves driving straight to the folk fest parking lot, no line at all, and being directed straight to the festival camping entrance where we got our wristbands in exchange for our passes, so that was easy. It's the first time we haven't had to wait in a line-up to enter the campground since 2005. Yay! We managed to park our minivan in the truck parking area that wasn't too far down the road, got our first cartload together and walked in via trail head 1-B and we found our campsite that was in a perfect spot thanks to Wolfgang and Lillian getting there bright and early themselves as they'd camped in the Bird's Hill park campground the night before along with all the other eager beavers looking to score prime camping sites. So we dumped our first load and headed back out again via trail head 1-B and when we made it back out I spotted an open parking spot right across the road that someone had just left. So I told Erin to hold it and then went and got our minivan and drove it back down and parked it there. Sweet, and it saved us a lot of walking back and forth for the rest of the festival.
We lucked out on weather too, which was partly cloudy and mild that day in Winnipeg, which made all the work much more pleasant. In no time at all we'd gotten it all hauled to the site and started setting up tents in our usual circle, with the usual discussion about where to put them all, which didn't take long thankfully. I'd gotten a "new" used tent I'd found on eBay that was the same brand and model as the one we bought back in 2009 (a Coleman Tucana), so basically I'd gotten $80 worth of spare parts. It was in great shape and we've liked having all the room (it's 16'x10'), the openness (it has four big windows to let breezes in), and the convenience of an actual door that you don't have to always zip and unzip to go in and out, plus a huge vestibule to stash chairs and other stuff under. We call it the Taj-Ma-Tent, and hopefully it'll last us another several years or so, depending on the breezes that blow that have trashed more than a few of our past tents.
|Setting up the Baggiecon camp|
|Still getting camp set up, with Elizabeth taking a break in the shade|
|Erin checking things out while Christine unloads her gear|
|It was a much neater site by Friday, with our Taj-Ma-Tent at the center-right. The red caution tape was put there by Erin after someone the night before stumbled ON our tent. Unfortunately, we can't install electric fences...|
We later had a bite to eat and then a few of us settled down to just play some music around the campfire. We had just enough armless chairs to accommodate all the guitar players and it was beautiful evening to hang out, chat, and sing. We could also hear pickers and singers from other groups camped next to us, all having fun as well. I wandered over to one a little later, and talked with them and found they were all volunteers working for the festival this year and had been camping together for awhile now. They said they'd camped near us before and that we were good neighbors. It really is a nice vibe in the festival campground these days, far less rowdy than it was for the first nine years I went to the folk fest, and while some of the craziness is missed, it's a lot easier to sleep at night.
As usual, I was the first one up in camp and after checking our tent's sunshade to make sure it was helping keep our tent cooler inside as the sun rose, I made some coffee after spending a little time finding a way to light the camp stove. It's always takes a little time to find out where everything is initially, and thankfully our fellow campers are pretty good about keeping the site organized. It's so much less hassle when you don't have to look for everything. The nice thing about getting up early is getting that first cup of coffee, but soon a few other were stirring and more pots of coffee were made. It was a nice morning, mild and dry too.
Since there are no afternoon workshops or concerts happening on Thursday, it was a good time to do nothing and look over the festival schedule and mark what I wanted to see. I'd downloaded the WFF app to my smartphone and found it was pretty handy to have the whole festival, but it wasn't a substitute for the WFF program book. (There were no lyrics for the closing festival songs, for example.) More Baggiecon campers arrived during the day and soon we were half a million strong, er, make that one hundred, um, maybe more like twenty or so.
Eventually some of us took a walkabout of the huge festival campgrounds (while Dave and Elizabeth went swimming in the nearby park lake) and looked over some of the campground installations that had been set up, including a two-story yurt that I was still limber enough to climb up some handholds nailed to what looked like part of a tree-trunk to check out. I made it back down safely too, thankfully. There was a very cool Psychedelic Car Wash that consisted of a 10'x10' EZ-up that had been strung with dozens of brightly colored cloth rope-like "cleaners" that were tightly packed together. So like a car getting all the dirt taken by brushed at the car wash, we festive campers got our minds cleaned of the usual cares to go and enjoy the folk fest mentally refreshed. It was cute.
|The Psychedelic Car Wash was getting plenty of business!|
|My foot as I relax waiting for music on the Main Stage to start on Thursday|
Again, got up early and enjoyed some early morning coffee before having to get ready to do the tarp run at 10:15am after getting a #1 tarp ticket from Polly. So there was no problem getting a good spot at the Main Stage and I had a nice time as usual chatting with others in the holding pen who were ready to stampede, er, shuffle when the ropes dropped. Me, I figure it's all good and that the most important thing is to not break something trying to snag that perfect tarp spot. Thankfully most of my fellow shufflers were like-minded and kept things Manitoba friendly.
|The Baggiecon tarp marker isn't flashy, but it makes up for it by being useful as it holds the tarp and stakes safely when you're doing the tarp shuffle.|
|Obligatory selfie after getting the tarp down at the Main Stage on Sunday|
|Erin looking over the festival program at the Snowberry stage|
It was a nice enough day when I got up and made coffee and had some yogurt, and I took a morning stroll around the campground, intending to go over to Pope's Hill but instead walked a bit in the RV section of festival camping just to see how it looked. I think in a few years if pitching a tent has lost its charms that it would be nice to try it with a pop-up camper or maybe a camper van. Then it was time for a quick shower before going down for the main stage tarp run, which went well enough. I then grabbed a really good egg burrito for breakfast at Burrito Splendido and headed over early to the Shady Grove stage to get a good seat in the shade, naturally. The 11am workshop, named "Plectrum Electrum", featured Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, as well as Possessed by Paul James, and Rayland Baxter. Campbell and Williams were supurb performers and he was a fine picker too. Baxter has been a sideman for Bob Dylan, and I wasn't surprised given his chops, and he was also a fine singer. A very nice start to the day.
After that, I hooked up with Dave Clement and headed over to the Big Bluestem stage for one of the bigger workshops of the fest, featuring Alan Doyle (of Great Big Sea fame) and his band, along with Oysterband, The East Pointers (a band from the eastern point of Prince Edward Island), and a singer from Newfoundland, Matthew Byrne. It was a very high energy affair from Doyle and Oysterband, with a more traditional sound from the East Pointers and Byrne, and it all came together beautifully. Perhaps the best workshop of the festival, and it was packed. Thankfully Dave and I and later Erin had a nice spot back from the crowd that was comfortable.
I don't remember what we did immediately after that, so I imagine we got something to eat and took a break. One of the nice things about the Winnipeg Folk Fest is that there's plenty of room to just chill if you want some quiet time out on the prairie. There's also a kid's activity and a folk music school tent that offers something to do other than sit and listen. The Handmade Village is always worth wandering through, and I always like stopping where there are musical instruments for sale and Erin enjoys shopping for gifts there too. There's a lake with a beach nearby too when the weather gets warm and if you have a bicycle it's just a few minutes away, and the entire park has many miles of hiking trails to explore. It's not a sin to go to a folk music festival and not spend every moment listening to music.
|While walking around the labyrinth that's mowed on the prairie grass every year, I spotted this photograph of the prairie on the prairie, with the Handmade Village and kid's area in the background. How meta.|
It did stop raining later and we did have a nice fire and Dave Clement with Erin's help gave out mugs to five who in the Baggiecon camp for the first time, including three of the Pinkies. The idea is to bring back the mug the next year, or whenever you make it back. There was more music and we had some other musicians drop by to play with us who were wonderful, including a concertina player that plays with Dave in a band in Winnipeg who if I recall correctly was also named Dave. Then I turned in and tuned out for the night.
|Around the campfire early in the evening on Saturday|
The last day of the fest got off to a decent start, cool and overcast but dry. I'd had a good night's sleep and was in a better mood, and had a fun time doing the tarp run and chatting with the others waiting to claim their 8x10 foot space. Then I again got a tasty egg burrito for breakfast and headed over to the Shady Grove stage to hear Loudon Wainwright III with his two daughters, Martha and Lucy. Thanks to Polly being an early bird there I was lucky enough to have a seat saved for me right up front too. They put on a great show, funny & sarcastic at times as you would expect, and even the sun came out for a little while in appreciation, at least that's what I think.
|Loudon Wainwright III and family at the Shady Grove stage on Sunday|
Then I spent a little time wandering and eventually ended up thinking about going into the woods where at the Spruce Hollow stage there was a workshop celebrating some recently departed musicians, like Merle Haggard, Guy Clark, and Prince. I got there and soon found it was so packed that I started considering what else there was going on, and noted that Matthew Byrne was playing at the Little Stage in the Woods nearby. So I got up and and moved over there and found a nice spot to hear his solo set, which I liked very much and I ended up getting out of Byrne's CDs at the festival music store. Byrne was modest but quite engaging and not a bad storyteller, always a plus.
|Matthew Byrne performing at the Little Stage in the Forest|
After that, the next act up was an odd one. Lucius is very much a pop act and they certainly were eccentric in both their singing and fashion. Their band was very good and tight and the harmonies were sharp indeed. That said, it wasn't quite my cup of tea but I did enjoy it for what it was. The final act was a bad from Los Angeles, Lord Huron, and for me it was underwhelming but some in the crowd around me liked them a lot. So it goes. The one thing I was curious about was that I spend a LOT of time listening to music from various sources, folk, classic rock, indie, etc. and I'd never heard of them. Then again, I listen to radio (streaming & broadcast) and perhaps they're an internet phenomena that I'm just ignorant of. But you'd think if they were a breaking act that I'd have heard _something_. Hmm. Could it be time to rename it the Winnipeg Poppapalooza Fest? (snark)
Then it was time for the end of fest finale, and I pulled up the tarp and slowly made my way through the crowd, while hearing Stan Rogers "Mary Ellen Carter" performed on the main stage, to the back where we had our own Baggiecon finale for the first time in a couple of years after being rained out twice, and we all made our circle and sang Ripple as our own end of fest ritual. Then we did our usual singing of shanties while we walked back as a group, and we were appreciated by those around us, thankfully. I'd hate to be annoying, after all. Then it was time for one last fire and eventually people started drifting off to go to sleep, but I stayed up for some time just winding down and started getting some things put away.
I was about ready to go to bed after 2am when I heard from one of the campground security folks was walking by and he told me that there was soon going to be a fairly big storm front coming through, so I stayed up a little longer and took down the shower tent and put it away dry, and put all the shower gear under the shade structure too. So I didn't get to sleep until after 3am. As it turned out it didn't storm but only rained a bit, but we later heard that there were some severe weather further south in Minnesota so it was a real concern. Of course I still was up early in the morning, but a little coffee helped with that. We were lucky enough to have no rain later in the morning, so after a couple of hours it was dry enough to start putting tents away dry too, and by 1pm we were all packed up and heading out.
|Taking it all down on Monday after the weather cleared|
After a good night's sleep and a chance to do laundry so we could pack away clean clothes for the trip home, we did our usual thing and headed over to Burnstein's Deli for breakfast with Dave, Donna, Christine, and Elizabeth and it was very tasty. We left Winnipeg around 11am and had no trouble at the border (yay!) and made very quick time on the interstate and picked up our Tucker at Peter's and then Missy and Auntie Shar's just as the sun was setting and pulled into the driveway at 9:45pm safe and sound. The cat was very happy to see us too.
|The next day after getting home, I still had my folk fest wristband on. I did eventually take it off.|