Mennonites at the Winnipeg Folk Festival

July 28, 2011 | Young Voices
Rachel Bergen | National Correspondent
Bird’s Hill Park, Man.

Daniel Epp has been going to the Winnipeg Folk Festival (WFF), or “Folk Fest” as it’s more commonly called, for the past five years and has volunteered there for two years. Though, as a volunteer he gets in free of charge, there are other reasons why he gives up a week of work to collect recyclables.

For the first three years of his WFF experience, Epp, a member of Douglas Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, spent over $200 to be in community with other people who spiritually connect with music and who believe strongly in environmental stewardship.

The WFF is a very “Winnipeg” event, according to fellow Folk Fest-goer, Anna-Marie Janzen, a Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies major at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU). It attracts approximately 65,000 Manitobans and 5,000 visitors from outside the province, the WFF website approximates. With core values such as environmental stewardship, community, and excellence in performing arts, WFF is a highlight for many Mennonites.

“People get the opportunity to enjoy music from all sorts of cultures and traditions, to enjoy being with friends and family, and to get caught up in the easygoing, friendly atmosphere that Folk Fest has so successfully created over the past 38 years,” Epp said. This is why he volunteers.

Janzen and Epp both spiritually connect with the music.

“I think music is a very spiritual thing and though I did not go to Folk Fest for typical ‘Christian’ music, I have always been able to experience God through any kind of music,” Janzen says.

Epp has had many profound spiritual moments at WFF, “whether it’s been sitting around a campfire with friends singing songs, or lying on a blanket listening to a favourite band perform,” he said.

For River East Mennonite Brethren Church member, DeLayne Toews, WFF is an opportunity for people from all different social and economic places to get together and have a good time.

“The people at Folk Fest can be themselves there and it’s okay to be ‘other.’ The people who were teased in high school come out and are goofy and that’s okay,” he said. This is Toews’ third year at the Festival.

Epp volunteered in the campground environmental crew this year, encouraging campers to keep their campsite clean, collecting garbage and recycling, sorting recyclables, and returning aluminum cans for a refund that goes to campground improvements.

This year, WFF held their second annual Bike Ride to the Festival where festival-goers had the opportunity reduce the festival’s environmental impact by leaving their cars behind. Among the 200 people who participated were Epp and Toews. There was also a free bus shuttle between the festival and downtown Winnipeg for those who wanted to leave their cars at home. Next year, those taking the bus will have priority entrance into the campground to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

At the festival, the food village offered compostable cutlery, reusable plates, and many local, organic food options, but for Janzen who firmly believes in a responsibility to the environment as a Biblical response to the world, attending Folk Fest was a bit disappointing.

“I know Folk Fest is supposed to be all ‘enviro-friendly’ and I suppose it was not bad in comparison to other large events, but I think it could have been better,” she said, not appreciating the disorganized parking lots which left many people idling their vehicles and the over-consumption of drugs and alcohol in the campground.

“The efforts by the Festival volunteers were good, they just need to do it better next time,” Janzen said.

Share this page: Twitter Instagram

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.