Manitobans gear up for 46th annual Folk Fest

International acts, local performers featured

Manitoba’s largest gathering of tree-huggers and music-lovers returns to Birds Hill Provincial Park July 11-14.

The 2019 Winnipeg Folk Festival (WFF) will feature popular acts such as Death Cab for Cutie, Alvvays and Kacey Musgraves. Artists hailing from across the globe such as Combo Chimbita (Colombia) and Mdou Moctar (Niger) will be performing as well as local favourites Begonia and Taylor Janzen.

This diverse lineup of over 75 artists was brought together by artistic director Chris Frayer.

Frayer has been the WFF’s artistic director for the past 15 years and has attended the festival since 1985, allowing him to see the evolution of the WFF.

WFF has broadened its genre horizons over the years, featuring electronic, indie-rock, country and others. According to Frayer, this has made the festival more accessible to people with different musical tastes “without losing respect for the history and tradition of the festival.”

Beyond the specific genre of folk music, WFF attendees, organizers and volunteers uphold a sense of community and common values, according to Frayer.

Frayer said in his experience the WFF is “essentially a big social experiment,” due to the diversity of people who attend the festival, which Frayer believes attracts the “type of person [who] loves live music, but also has an environmental consciousness, and a sense of how people should interact with one another.”

The festival boasts over 2,800 volunteers, many of whom have been with the festival for decades.

“It’s such a welcoming place as a first-time attendee, so it’s very likely people will have a great time and they’ll want to come back,” said Frayer.

Frayer said WFF becomes a tradition for many people, and that keeps attendance rates high.

“I have friends who are like 47 whose parents still buy them their Folk Fest weekend passes.”


Icelandic Sounds, Young Performers hit the Prairies

In addition to the usual variety of daytime workshops and concerts, WFF 2019 will feature its first Icelandic Sounds workshop in partnership with Icelandair and Iceland Naturally.

Frayer attended the 2018 Iceland Airwaves Festival in Reykjavik, where he scooped up FM Belfast, Mammút, Snorri Helgason and Ylja for the WFF. Lindy Vopnfjörð is an Icelandic Toronto-based artist who will also be performing at the workshop.

“The country has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to artistic and creative output,” said Frayer.

The workshop will also remind attendees “of the deep roots we have with the settlement of Icelanders in Manitoba,” said Frayer.

The 2019 WFF will also feature a 100th “B-day Hootenanny” for the late folk legend Pete Seeger, with performers from Alabama, New York and California playing together.

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the WFF’s Stingray Young Performers Program. The Young and Bold: Celebrating 20 Years of YPP workshop will feature previous participants and current performers Jesse Matas, Roman Clarke and Taylor Janzen alongside special guests.

Frayer said he encourages people to take advantage of the wide array of events and acts by scheduling your trip wisely — in particular, using the WFF smartphone app, where attendees can make “a customized version of the festival for themselves,” said Frayer.

Frayer hopes campers in particular will enjoy as much music as they can.

“The camping is awesome, the art and animation is amazing, but that’s for after the music’s done,” he said.

“We want people over enjoying the music, supporting the artists.”

For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit