Entertainment Music

Whoop & Hollar folk fest, close

Ego Spank, a Winnipeg act fronted by Portager Murray Pulver, ​join Brothers of Stone and Keith & Renee in the musician’s workshop at last year’s festival. (Submitted)

Ego Spank, a Winnipeg act fronted by Portager Murray Pulver, ​join Brothers of Stone and Keith & Renee in the musician’s workshop at last year’s festival. (Submitted)

The Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival date, Portage la Prairie’s very own and only summer folk festival, is fast approaching, taking place on Saturday, Sept. 9, the weekend after Labour Day.
Celebrating its fifth anniversary, a still too small, very definitely quaint “gathering”, the Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival this year is scheduled for September instead of August. “There will be some exciting changes in store for the 2017 event,” explains co-organizers and founders Josh Wright and Linda Omichinsky.
The music is always good, but organizers are tweaking how the festival will unfold.
“Some of the highlights of this year’s festival will include an extra day of camping and the option to bring a trailer or RV to the festival,” explains Wright. “This year, those who are planning on camping can now stay both Friday and Saturday night and can bring either a tent or trailer for one final summer getaway before school and work get back into full swing. There will be two main campsites, one for tents located directly on the festival grounds and another for both tents and trailers located two kilometres south. Both areas are unserviced so come prepared for that, but regardless, it’ll be a great party.” Wright emphasizes that camping is free with general admission and adds that campers bringing trailers are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance.
Other changes include a longer program beginning earlier in the afternoon, more affordable ticket prices, and if organizers are successful,  food vendors will be serving up different types of ethnic cuisine. Organizers are receptive to suggestions about enticing food vendors to participate. Edgar Desjarlais will be serving Métis fry bread - known as ‘les beignes’ – he cooks over an open fire. These are delicious and a big hit in Europe when he lived there.
People are welcome to show up anytime after the gates open at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The main stage action will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and slide into the evening before wrapping up shortly after midnight. There will be eight different acts performing all types of music and three acts in the Red Barn between sets. A public jam session that typically runs until sunrise, follows the main program. A few local artisans - two of whom will be coming from the Prairie Ripples Art Tour - will be displaying their creations.”
“Input from festival goers and the community of Portage sparked many of this year’s changes at Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival” Omichinski said. “We appreciated the survey responses we received from attendees at last year’s festival and hearing comments from the public. We tried our best to take every comment, idea, suggestion, and concern into consideration to make this year the best one yet. Our organization believes that collaboratively working with our community is key to driving this festival forward, and strengthening our commitment to supporting the arts scene in Portage la Prairie.”
She describes the idea behind a folk festival: “A folk festival, for those who haven’t experienced one before, is not just a music festival. It’s a festival that welcomes people of all ages and backgrounds and celebrates local cultures mainly through music and song, but also through art, dance, fashion, food, and storytelling. Folk festivals are inclusive spaces that allow people to come as they are and be themselves, to experience new music and surroundings, and to have fun. A folk festival, through the storied lyrics of its musicians, is meant to engage, to teach, to challenge, to inspire, and most importantly to foster love and respect for one another and Mother Earth.”
“This year, with the additional features and a longer program, the festival is in need of more volunteers to help make the event run smoothly,” says Volunteer Coordinator Chris Dumont. Organizers invite interested individuals from the community to be a part of the team and make a difference in a meaningful way. “Our volunteer community is growing, and we would love for both new and familiar faces to come on board and lend a hand for a few hours. We need help with things like selling tickets, supervising the campsites, and patrolling the grounds,” Dumont said. Volunteers will receive a complimentary meal and free admission and are asked to e-mail info@portagefolk.com to apply.
The Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival grounds are located on a scenic rural property along Provincial Road 331, only a 10-minute drive southeast of Portage. Here the musician’s stage sits under a sweeping canopy of cottonwood trees, with plenty of room to dance. A 900-metre forest trail meanders next to the stage where children can safely explore and run freely. There is also ample space to picnic on the grounds. A pollinator garden home to many plants found on the tall-grass prairie provides habitat for bees and butterflies and time for a meditative wander. People are invited to come and go as they please, or stay for the entire event.
Festival ticket prices are $10 for students and youth, $20 for adults, free for children 12 and under, and free for individuals with a Cultural Access Pass. At the gate, groups of 10 or more people can get in for half price and families of up to nine people can get in for no more than $50. Tickets are available in downtown Portage at Hill’s Drug Store or Blessings Collection, on the festival’s website or at the gate. Although advance rates are the same price as gate rates, advance ticket holders can skip the line.
Site Coordinator Mitchell Omichinski says that the festival grounds are disability-friendly and are accessible for all people. “We ask that people who require assistance arrive at the festival early and let us know in advance so a volunteer can accommodate their needs.”
Check out the festival’s website at www.portagefolk.com.

Josh Wright
for the Herald Leader

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