Time to get your moon on

For the weekend of Sept. 16-18, the town of Clearwater, Man. will balloon to over 20 times its approximate population of 68 souls when the community hosts the 10th Perennial Harvest Moon Festival. Pegged as “a celebration of the harvest season, local food production, the area’s rich cultural heritage and the bond between rural and urban folks,” the festival is highly anticipated by many Manitobans every summer.

Last year the festival drew approximately 1,200 visitors to the idyllic rural Pembina Valley community. This year, with a lineup that boasts big-name local draws Nathan, Ridley Bent, John K Samson, Christine Fellows, the Crooked Brothers and Saskatoon’s indie-roots darlings the Deep Dark Woods, the turnout is expected to surpass that of last year.

“The Harvest Moon Festival is, by far, our favourite festival in Canada,” says Jesse Matas of the Crooked Brothers. “The festival is about so much more than music. Where else can you learn to harvest wild edibles, how to make an adobe oven or how to butcher a pig?”

Founded in response to the dramatic demographic decline that rural communities across Canada are currently facing, the Harvest Moon Festival is an economic driver for the community of Clearwater. With a main stage operating throughout the weekend and a second stage adjacent to the local Clearwater Junction restaurant, there are plenty of opportunities to catch the musical acts while contributing positively to the local economy.

“The Harvest Moon Festival is a significant annual event for our small community,” says lifelong local Jo-Lene Gardiner. “Economically it is a major fund raiser for a number of local organizations like the Clearwater Skating Arena and the Clearwater Memorial Hall.”

“The festival has been instrumental in increasing the awareness of agricultural issues facing farmers and rural communities today,” continues Gardiner, whose family farms nearby. “It has highlighted the importance of sustainable food production. The festival facilitates opportunities for intimate rural-urban conversations and interactions through workshops and presentation.”

The weekend’s hands-on workshops capture the longstanding DIY tradition of farming communities. This year festival-goers can take part in workshops on vermiculture, forest gardening, lactic acid fermentation and more. Workshops will be running Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s exciting to be part of a festival that has a bit of substance behind it as opposed to an event that is purely for entertainment value,” says Matt Colpitts of Winnipeg’s the Reverend Rambler, a first time Harvest Moon performer. “I’m almost just as excited to see some of the other killer acts as I am to play. Should be amazing!”

Local food and goods also feature prominently in the festival. Farmer and artisan markets are rocking throughout the weekend. Local food vendors — from both Winnipeg and Clearwater — will be on hand to provide hot eats, with beer provided by Half Pints Brewery. Sunday, Sept.18 is also Open Farm Day, an annual province wide event sponsored by Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives designed to connect consumers with producers. There are a number of farmers in the Clearwater area participating, so if the festival has you craving to learn more about your food, plan a farm visit on your way back to the city.

“We’ve been playing or attending the festival now for five years and make sure that we’re Manitoba for it,” says Matas. “Last year, we played on Friday night with a temperature that dropped below zero, where people crowd-surfed to waltzes and everyone danced to stay warm. The energy was electric.”

So if you’re camping out, make sure to pack warm clothes. A weekend pass is $55, plus $10 if you plan to camp — and you should. This will be likely be the last chance for a festival camping experience until next year’s Dauphin Country Fest. Tickets are available in Winnipeg at Mondragon and Organic Planet.

For more information visit www.harvestmoonfestival.ca.