Hillbilly Highway – Harvest Moon Festival closes out the season

by Sheldon Birnie

Well, friends, summer’s officially over, or will be once this weekend’s Harvest Moon Festival comes to a close on Sunday afternoon. The last outdoor festival of the year here in Manitoba — where we’re lucky to experience an abundance each summer, from the Winnipeg and Brandon Folk Festivals, to smaller community events like Rainbow Trout, Harvest Sun and Harvest Moon — this fest out in Clearwater, MB is a special one.Featuring performances by fellow Hillbilly Highway travellers Andrew Neville & The Poor Choices, Del Barber, and JP Hoe, along with Winnipeg favourites The Secondhandpants, Greg Macpherson, and Imaginary Cities, and plenty more, this year’s line-up has something for everyone.

The special thing about Harvest Moon is not the community aspect. Created as a way of pumping some cash and life into the tiny farm community of Clearwater after the town lost it’s school to rural depopulation, the festival has grown from an initial attendance of around 400 to utilizing over 100 volunteers and drawing well over 1000 visitors. The community also hosts a number of DIY flavoured workshops throughout the weekend. This year’s offerings include “Homemade Soap,” “From Fleece to Workable Fibre,” “DIY All Natural Body Care,” “Rope Making,” and a presentation on “Oral History,” among others.

Last year was the first time I’d managed to attend the Harvest Moon Festival since moving to Winnipeg. Every year I’d hear tell of this great little festival out in the southwest corner of the Keystone province. Despite years of hype, the festival exceeded my expectations, and I’m really looking forward to the weekend, you guys. As a fan of many of the performers, and a keen reader of music oral history texts, from Please Kill Me to Everyone Loves Our Town, there is a lot on my plate here.

Speaking of plate, the food is amazing too! Last year I was spoiled with a performers pass, but regardless, the focus on fresh, local produce and food is unparalleled among other festivals in the province.

If you’re free this weekend, why not unpack the tent one more time. Make sure to pack a toque and some warm socks, and maybe a bottle of good rye whisky, cuz these nights are going to get cold! See you on the Highway out there, friends!

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