Winnipeg Folk Festival won't go ahead this summer due to COVID-19

·2 min read
As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, seen here in 2019, won't be back this summer. It's the second year in a row organizers have had to cancel the festival.  (Justin Deeley/CBC - image credit)
As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, seen here in 2019, won't be back this summer. It's the second year in a row organizers have had to cancel the festival. (Justin Deeley/CBC - image credit)

It's a second year of silence for the Winnipeg Folk Festival, which has been cancelled again due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But organizers say the festival faithful will still have something to look forward to, with a trio of in-person concerts and live-streamed events in the works.

Organizers of the annual music festival, which normally draws thousands to Birds Hill Provincial Park each July, said Wednesday they looked at every possible option.

But with continued uncertainty around what public health restrictions will be in place this summer, they decided it would be best not to go forward with it.

"It's simply impossible for us to safely hold an event of our size and stay true to our typical Folk Fest experience," a news release posted on the festival's website says. Current health orders in Manitoba limit outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 25 people.

The news release says close to 4,500 people filled out a survey about what they wanted to see from the festival this year. Many said they wanted a return to the full Folk Fest experience, which typically involves thousands of people, but only once it's fully safe to do so.

However, festival organizers are planning to hold outdoor and in-person concerts, on a smaller scale, for three evenings on the weekend of Aug. 13 at the festival main stage in Birds Hill Park.

"While it may not be the same festival experience we're used to, we want nothing more than to support artists and share live music with our community in the safest way we can at this time," the news release says.

Organizers are also looking into streaming options for those who would like to participate and support the Folk Festival, but may not be able to attend in-person gatherings this summer.

'For the best,' musician says

Local musician and past Folk Fest performer Micah Erenberg says he's been going to the festival every year since he was a baby.

"To me, it's always been that thing to look forward to," he said.

He's disappointed to have to miss it again, but says he'd rather be safe than sorry. He also said the festival has been doing a great job of organizing virtual events and giving musicians opportunities to play during the pandemic.

"It's for the best. Obviously, it's sad that there's no Folk Festival, but we'll have another one," he said.

"It sucks, but you know, we'll figure it out... we might just have to have 100 tiny folk festivals."

Another much-loved Winnipeg summer festival has also said it's putting in-person events on hold this year.

The Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival announced last week it won't have in-person, indoor programming this summer due to the uncertainty created by the pandemic.

Instead, it will hold a digital-only festival, its website says.