Winnipeg Folk Fest goes virtual during COVID-19 pandemic

Folk Fest 2017
Winnipeg Folk Fest kicked off Thursday. Global News File Photo

Despite ongoing coronavirus restrictions, a Manitoba summer staple is finding a new way to help fans scratch that festival itch.

Winnipeg Folk Fest is hoping a virtual concert will tide locals over until next summer when spectators can once again take in the sights and sounds of Birds Hill Park and the plethora of musical talent that comes with the festival.

Read more: Winnipeg Folk Fest pulls plug on 2020 event due to coronavirus pandemic

Executive director Lynn Skromeda told 680 CJOB they’ve lost 80 per cent of their revenue by cancelling the festival this year.

“It’s pretty dire, but we’re working hard to keep everything going and keep everything afloat,” she said.

Winnipeg Folk Fest at Home is still working with food and merchandise vendors, partnering with McNally Robinson for the first time, where festival memorabilia can be found.

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Restaurants like East India Company, The Churro Stop and King + Bannatyne are also offering up Folk Fest specials with a portion of the proceeds going back to the festival.

“We’ve really been able to bring everybody together that we would have had out physically at Birds Hill Park, we’re just doing it in different ways,” Skromeda said.

An online store is also available for vendors to use so people can still support local makers.

Read more: Winnipeg Folk Fest finding virtual ways to entertain concertgoers despite cancelled festival

The broadcast, that will take place on Facebook and Youtube, will be a mix of past Main Stage performances like Sheryl Crow, Arlo Guthrie and Brandi Carlile, along with performances by artists who were set to take the stage at this year’s festival like Vance Joy, Tash Sultana and Alan Doyle.

Click to play video 'Alan Doyle performs ‘It’s Okay’' Alan Doyle performs ‘It’s Okay’
Alan Doyle performs ‘It’s Okay’

The virtual show will also feature a tribute to John Prine who was supposed to play the festival this year but died in April, as well as Folk Fest founder Mitch Podolak, who passed away last year.

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A 50/50 draw of more than $6,000 is also up for grabs.

Skromeda said they wanted to provide people with as similar an experience as possible which is why spectators are encouraged to visit the website to print off wristbands, see playlist suggestions for their own watch party and see decor suggestions.

“If we wouldn’t have done anything I feel like we would all feel even a greater sense of loss,” said Skromeda.

Winnipeg Folk Fest at Home will take folkies to the festival — virtually — at Birds Hill Park Saturday, July 11 at 7 p.m.

Links to watch live performances on Facebook and Youtube can be found on the festival website here.