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Folk Festival site undergoes millions in renovations

WINNIPEG — Organizers are rushing to get Birds Hill Park ready for the 40th annual Winnipeg Folk Festival.

More than 80,000 people are expected to take in the sights and sounds of the five-day event.

The Winnipeg Folk Festival is the biggest of its kind in North America and the site has undergone a $5.4-million facelift.

“There is a new food area, there is a new picnic area, the tavern has moved,” said executive director Lynne Skormeda. “It’s all around a new central square. There’s a big tower that people will be able to use as a meeting place.”

A permanent food structure will allow vendors more access to water and electricity while also providing a shaded area where the public can line up.

The improvements also include a number of new “shade structures” to help people find shelter from the blazing sun.

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Organizers sourced “green” or recycled parts to be used as part of the new infrastructure.

“Our new festival tower and the posts for our new food village are all made of recycled hydro poles,” said Skormeda. “Even the trusses in the food area are from a Safeway in Selkirk that was torn down.”

While it takes an entire village of workers to get the site ready for the festival, it takes a team of more than 3,000 volunteers to keep things running smoothly throughout the week.

The backstage kitchen to feed the volunteers originally opened with a crew of just 50 people. Now, more then 350 people work to feed 4,000 people six times a day.

Gates to the campground will open at 7 a.m. Wednesday. RCMP will be out as of midnight Tuesday to patrol the area to ensure no drivers are parked on Highway 59 before the gates open.

The gates to the festival will open at 5 p.m.