In order for an outdoor festival to work, precautions must be taken to deal with all kinds of weather, and all kinds of weather is precisely what hit the Winnipeg Folk Festival yesterday. Thunderstorms rumbled across the site in the morning, collapsing tents and turning footpaths into puddles of squishy goo. Gray, ominous clouds hung overhead all day long, pelting festivalgoers with intermittent rain showers. And the wind, the dreadful wind, it never let up.
When the sun poked through early in the evening, it seemed as if the evening concerts were going to be spared, but no, the festival gods were just taunting us, amusing themselves at our expense. With a clear sky overhead, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up, blowing at a steady 25 to 40 m.p.h., making it look like everyone in the mainstage audience was sitting on the deck of one of those fishing trawlers on The Deadliest Catch in the middle of a North Sea typhoon. Technically speaking, the temperature was in the low sixties, but huddled in a lawn chair in the middle of an open field with nothing to break the wind except a row of Biffies, it felt like—oh, thirty below. Cold enough, at any rate, for Old Man Winter’s icy digits to come back and haunt you.
I am told that in the past, a deluge like yesterday’s would have turned the mainstage into an ickier, messier version of the La Brea tar pits. Festivalgoers would have set up their lawn chairs and tarps, only to sink into the mud and never be seen again. Better drainage apparently saved us all from certain death, and for that I am grateful—I think. Today, the weather forecast is for colder temperatures, higher winds, and rain pretty much all day long. If had I died yesterday, I would have been spared the agonies that today will inevitably bring, so I’m not certain it was in my best interests to survive. But I did, and today I must face the consequences.
This is not what I signed up for. When preparing for this trip, I was told by a number of veteran festivalgoers that oppressive heat would be the demon we would fight. Bring plenty of sunscreen and extra-large water bottles, they said, otherwise you are going to be buzzard food. Wear a hat and quality sunglasses that will protect you from deadly UV rays, they said, because if you don’t, your eyeballs will dry up and roll out of your skull like a couple of BBs. The blistering Manitoba sun will be your foe, they said, so prepare accordingly. A couple pairs of shorts and a few t-shirts ought to do it, I thought.
The way festival planners deal with such conditions is simple. All the stages are sheltered by white,
visor-like overhangs, protecting the performers from the elements—and all the people in the audience are on their own. The prevailing ethos is that the show will go on no matter what, and somewhere on the grounds they sell the Kool-Aid that convinces people this is a good and worthy goal, and that as long as the music is playing you shouldn’t care how low your core body temperature drops. I must find that Kool-Aid stand today, or I fear that my festival-going experience is going to be tainted.