Soaked Fields Grow Great Music

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Manitobans have never let a little weather get in the way of their entertainment. For over three decades, the audience of the Winnipeg Folk Festival has developed a reputation for being particularly immune to bad weather and soaked fields, focusing instead on some of the best music the world has to offer. Ponchos, mud-soaked man skirts, and rubber boots will be commonplace at Birds Hill Park this July 7 through 10 after a month of solid rain, but so will the incredible music.

The Festival, one of the biggest and best in North America, celebrates 32 years in 2005 by continuing to challenge the boundaries of "folk music." For his debut, new Director of Music Programming Chris Frayer has brought together an impressive line-up of big names, emerging artists, and genre-defying acts. Frayer also continues the tradition of a strong local contingent of artists, offering 20 Manitoba acts for this year's festivities.

Thousands will pour into Birds Hill Park for headliners like Emmylou Harris, Daniel Lanois, Feist, Ricky Skaggs, and the legendary Odetta, and get a chance to see them paired with emerging and local artists. The local line-up is as diverse as the international line-up, including harmonica legend Gerald Laroche, singer/songwriter Cara Luft, bluegrass band D.Rangers, childrens' acts Aaron Burnett with Prairie Grass and Jake Chenier, folk/punk poets The Weakerthans, Latin act Revoluson, multi-instrumentalist BenWah, roots singer/songwriter Romi Mayes, and the North End Klezmer All-Stars.

The Firefly Palace will return this year, featuring a performance by rock act Novillero on July 8 and two hours of video with Winnipeg Film Group on July 10. With performances running concurrently with Main Stage, The Firefly Palace promises to offer some unique programming for those whose taste runs a little edgier and less traditionally "folk."

A few local acts will also make it to the Festival's nighttime Main Stage as featured performers, including 2005 Juno Award nominated roots outfit Nathan on July 7 and World music vocal band Madrigaïa on July 9. Alana Levandoski will perform a few songs in a coveted Main Stage "tweener" spot on July 7.

Audiences will no doubt be singing Frayer's praises after the last strains of the sing-along finale on July 10. Frayer, who was most recently the Artistic Director of the Jazz Winnipeg Festival and the West End Cultural Centre, brings a fresh and hip approach to programming the venerable Folk Festival. Frayer took over from the much-heralded Rick Fenton, who left after the 2004 Festival to return to record producing.

Committed to fostering new talent, the Festival presents the sixth year of the Great-West Life Young Performers Program. After taking master classes with performers from this year’s Festival, musicians between the ages of 14 and 20 will showcase their talents on a daytime stage Friday of the Festival, sharing their skills with receptive audiences eager to see new artists.

For more information and complete schedules, please visit

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