Being an experienced Winnipeg Folk Fest camper and festival go-er, this upcoming year will be my sixth year camping. I could call myself a bit of a folk fest enthusiast ie. going early, waiting all night, getting the good spots, hitting up the festival and partying hard.
The way I have described folk fest in the past is as peaceful anarchy. There are people who run the festival and those who volunteer to keep everyone safe, however people do not generally steal or fight. There are no real over authoritative figures bearing down ensuring that everyone obeys and despite thousands of people in one area with booze (etc), it is still a peaceful place which makes this festival so unique and wonderful.
My favorite things about the festival experience are;
When someone yells "folk fest!!!" and then the echo of yells of excitement roll across all the camp sites. Literally thousands of people are sharing the same feeling of how excited they are to be there.
Popes hill at dawn with all the people cheering on the sun as it begins to rise.
Going to sleep to drum circles and waking up to drum circles.
The parade that anyone can join and consists of a marching band, random instruments and a strange assortment of costumes that circles the camp ground day and night.
Having a nap after not sleeping all night, in the festival, in the shade, while listening to good bands and waking up to good bands.
Preparation for Folk Fest:
There are a few essentials, besides the basics of food and lots of booze (etc), that I strongly recommend getting in order maxamize your festival enjoyable-ness (not a word).
-A tarp and rain gear: without fail, every year it rains, even for just a minute. I promise you the festival is always more fun why you and your tent is dry.
-Glowsticks: Lots and lots of glowsticks so you can find your friends and because they are awesome. Glow Frisbees are the best.
-A Wagon: cars are not allowed on festival grounds and for the first time this year, cars are no longer allowed to drive in on Monday morning. So make sure you have something to lug your stuff for the week from you car to your site because it is a long walk.
- A Blanket or Low Chair: Either are good for when you're in the festival during the day. It is always nice to find a shady spot and take a nap, or have a home base during the day to go back to when you get tired of dancing.
-Water Bottle, water jug: It is hot in a field during the day time, remember to stay hydrated and not just on beers! Sunstroke is such a downer on the week. Sunscreen is good too!
-An Alarm Clock: I have slept through shows that I wish I hadn't. So I now use an alarm clock to wake myself up if there's a show that I would like to see earlier in the day (and by earlier in the day, I mean around 3 PM).
Getting in: The old school way of doing it was getting up at 4 AM to line up on the high way until the gates are open. This year they've disallowed this, so the traditional line up can only commence at 7 AM. Once in the park, the cars are put into a field where some get to drive in further depending on how early you come, while others park in the field and have to hike their stuff in.
There are two festival camp grounds: the quiet campground (filled with families and children aka not as much fun) and the festival campground (more fun then possibly imaginable).
The Festival campground is divided into four separate zones which are divided by trees. This is how you find your friends. Ex: "I'm in site three, in the trees, beside the spaceship and the hummock city" (legit quote).
The spots that are most coveted are in the trees because that way if it rains you are protected and when it gets too hot, you are cool in the shade.
The walk from the closest campground to the festival is about 10-15 minutes, and from the furthest sites probably 20ish. This depends on how many people you run into, how many people you wait for and how many pee breaks/ how fast you can chug your drink before getting onto the path takes.
Popes Hill: The hill is where the all night drum circles happen, besides the random ones that sporadically happen around camp fires through out the camp ground. The hill is where you can watch fire dancers and other shows earlier in the evening, aka 12 or 1 AM. It is also really amusing to watch all the messed up people roll down the hill and the glow people walk up the hill.
Castle Boys: Every year the boys put together a structure with a theme for everyone to play music inside. For example it has been castle, a saloon, a pirate ship and a rocket ship. Always a good spot to meet people and always a popular late night destination.
The Trading Post: straight up, an old school trading post with a party around it. Rad.
Make the most out of your fest:
A lot of people get caught up in the camp ground culture, which is amazing don't get me wrong, however, folk fest should be about the music. Don't just show up for main stage, or rather, at least make it to main stage.
Do the research before hand, figure out what you want to see and go check it out. Once you're at the show with your friends and your schedule, someone will suggest going to check out another stage with another show, where you will find more music and so on and so forth. You can always sleep and drink and eat in the festival!
The booze and the, ahem, other stuff will be there the whole week, so don't over do it the first couple nights and it is pretty normal to take one night off to just sleep. I usually choose the night that I get the drunkest during the day.
I come back every year, no matter where I am living. In my opinion, this week is better than Christmas.
To quote my friend Eric Parent, aka Pee Pee Parent, another Folk Fest enthusiast whose motto for partying at folk fest is: "Safety and Teamwork." Which is hilarious and true.
so... GO LOSE YOUR MINDS AND HAVE A GREAT TIME.
P.S. Remember to NOT bring glass bottles :)