Hillbilly Highway – Folk Fest in the Wheat City

by Sheldon Birnie

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Brandon Folk, Music and Art Festival in the Wheat City. Boasting an impressive line-up of artists, including Judy Collins, Kinnie Starr, Geoff Berner, Nathan, the Crooked Brothers, and many more, this year’s festival promises to be another great time. Running from Thursday, July 19 through Sunday, July 22, the Brandon Folks, Music and Art Festival offers onsite camping at the Keystone grounds, a main stage that is beautifully shaded, as well as a kids’ tent and a site for spoken word poetry. The Wheat City’s version of the Birds Hill whoop-up is an underrated and over looked gem in the beautiful province of Manitoba.

I was lucky enough to get to perform at this festival a few years back. It’s a small affair, but not so small as Harvest Moon or Shine On. It’s very well organized, provides plenty of shade for patrons in the beautiful wooded grounds behind the Keystone Centre, and I’m told the campground is a fine place to set a tent, enjoy some cold ones, and make new friends around a fire pit. Much like the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Brandon’s fest is truly a family friendly event where you can have a good time no matter what age. My fondest memory of our performance there was watching a bunch of kids dancing up a storm to the right of the stage as we sung tunes about boozin’, brawlin’, and smoking crystal meth.

The Wheat City itself is a great place for musicians, as the town draws a catchment of folks from all over Westman who might not want to make the trek to the larger Winnipeg Folk Festival, or even to the relatively closer Dauphin Countryfest. In my experience, music fans in Brandon are appreciative of a good performance, and some of the friendliest folks you can come across on the Hillbilly Highway. For all those lucky enough to be performing this year at the Brandon Folk, Music, and Art Festival, we here at Stylus wish you the best of luck. For those just taking it in, well, I’m sure you’ll have a blast. Wish I was headed there, too. Maybe next year. Cheers!

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