A Winnipeg Folk Fest goer shows her enthusiasm while attending the four day festival at Birds Hill Provincial Park July 8. See more photos on page 20. (Brook Jones/Selkirk Journal/Postmedia Network)
The Winnipeg Folk Festival could not have asked for a better weekend.
The sunny skies over Winnipeg this past weekend found the Folk Fest having better attendance numbers that it has in several years.
Though organizers didn’t yet have final attendance numbers calculated on Sunday afternoon, they were confident in saying the whole weekend drew over 60,000 people, volunteers included, to Birds Hill Park. Winnipeg Folk Festival artistic director Chris Frayer said that Saturday in particular had a strong attendance, with an estimated 17,000 people showing up. He also noted that the campground sold out for the first time in several years.
Frayer also gave the main stage credit for drawing so many spectators.
“People felt like they liked something that they heard, and they just dove into the deep end and bought a four day pass,” Frayer said. “We had a lot of people coming back, but also a lot of first-timers. I think it was just an all-around good vibe.”
The weather benefited organizers too.
“It made running the festival a lot easier,” Frayer said. “Getting artists out to stages took less work. It was just a total game-changer this year. It’s so nice to get this constant weather after a few years of up and down weather.”
Many of the artists had nothing to compare it to, as it was their first trip to the Folk Festival.
“They had to get acquainted with the workshop model and jam session aspect of the festival,” Frayer said. “Just getting them all prepared for that always takes a bit of extra time.”
Frayer noted a few highlights, including performances by Feist, The Shins, Brandi Carlile, and Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha. But that was by no means an exhaustive list.
“You know the drill, it’s so hard to pick,” Frayer said. “There’s been lots of cool stuff this year.”
And though this was the first year first aid crews carried naloxone kits for the safety of the spectators, Festival protection and wellness coordinator Paul Laporte reported that none of them were used.
“All of that stuff is sitting unused, which is the way we like it,” said Laporte.
In fact, Laporte said that there were no safety concerns that were out of the ordinary.
“On Saturday it did get hot, and so we had people telling visitors to keep hydrating,” Laporte said. “Not everybody was doing that, so we had some of those cases last night. But overall, it was an extremely wonderful couple of days.”
FOLK FEST FAST FACTS
Fast facts about 44th annual Winnipeg Folk Festival, which wrapped up Sunday:
- Number of attendees at inaugural festival in 1974: 22,000
- Number of attendees in 2017: over 60,000
- Number of performers in 2017: 78
- Number of volunteers: approx. 2,800
- Jobs created by festival: 281
- Economic activity generated by festival: $29.4 million