Tequila, bonfires, and magic marker tattoos

The 12th annual Harvest Moon Festival in review

Photo by Kelly Campbell

From Friday, Sept. 13 until Sept. 15, the 12th annual Harvest Moon festival was held in Clearwater, Manitoba. It was my first time going and I left for the festival on Friday afternoon with my tent, sleeping bag, and a bottle of tequila – as a volunteer, I was to receive free meals all weekend.

I arrived in Clearwater just in time to grab some leftovers from dinner—tomato zucchini boats and roasties—and to catch the Burning Kettles before my volunteer shift. They had just arrived themselves, as their car had broken down and they had to hitchhike. The band was using a drum machine, which was neat to see on a big festival stage, but I have to say I missed their absent violinist.

At 11 p.m. I took out the garbage for an hour to earn my keep; my reward was to dance my butt off to my favourite DJ, Mama Cutsworth. It was a great set. Just enough Prince . . . well, maybe it ended a little early for me.

So I toned my party energy down to a more folksy level and visited the four huge public bonfire pits set up on the festival grounds. When I’d had enough songs around the fire, I definitely did not hang out on the dangerous abandoned train bridge a short five-minute walk from the festival site. Festival organizers highly discourage this activity.

The next day I had a slow morning, enjoying my free breakfast. At 1 p.m. I started my shift screen printing – if you brought a blank t-shirt, pair of underwear, or some booty shorts, you could screen print it with your choice of several Harvest Moon logos for a small donation.

In the evening, I sorted recycling to the bouncy indie rock of Boats playing at the restaurant stage. The stage is made of wood from deconstructed buildings in the area as part of a sustainable architecture project initiated by the Harvest Moon Society.

With all recycling in the proper receptacle, I headed over to the main stage to see Cannon Bros. Their set was plagued by many difficulties: an injured finger, broken monitors, a broken string, and a malfunctioning amp. But Cannon Bros. managed to keep it real with an energetic set and entertaining stage banter.

At this point it was a bit chilly so I went to the community hall to warm up for a bit. This ended up being the highlight of my weekend – there were four girls giving out free pink magic marker tattoos. I got ones of a dog and a disco ball.

Near the end of the night, I caught Flying Fox and the Hunter Gatherers. They had interesting arrangements but all the songs sounded the same after 20 minutes. Ending the festival was the JD Edwards Band. I think that was a great choice – JD’s gruff, indecipherable vocals and his crazy genre-hopping band were a great end to the music and start to the party for the rest of the night.

The fires on Saturday were kept going into the wee hours by a determined woman named Nadine. Every time she would return to the fire, her family would offer her a drink and tell her to rest. But Nadine had a job to do and only rested when she was good and ready. The mysterious and sign-less espresso tent took a similar approach and did not close until past midnight.

I only heard “Wagon Wheel” played twice. Naturally, I had a great time and would go back next year. My one suggestion would be to enforce a “no hand drum” policy. Nobody likes a bongo at 5 a.m.