Forecasts and opinion polls seem to be pretty much equally unreliable.
It was cloudy when the gates opened and when the Winnipeg Festival started, but a light rain started around 7:30 PM and kept up all evening. The ground began to get wet, although I did not see any accumulations of standing water in my travels. The site supervisor responded by shutting down the carts and ATVS. No vehicular traffic. It was a sensible strategy. The mild impressions made by vehicles passing over dry ground in the preceding days became visible in the wet grass, and more traffic under wet conditions would have created ruts, puddles and mudholes.
There were a few messages over the radio about food concessionaires trying to requisition a vehicle, and they were consistently postponed and eventually turned down to avoid ruts and breaks in the turf.
At one point during the evening, someone said the rain was supposed to end by midnight. Later, that was revised to 4:00 AM. The rain was getting heavier as I left the site at 1:00 AM, and it’s still raining this morning at 8:00 AM, although it seems to be stopping.
I spoke to a volunteer who had worked during the day and he told me that the site had lost power for part of the day due to a line down outside the park.
Between the weather and the simple force of chance, sometimes I’m amazed that people can make a festival happen.
The crowd was small, even by Thursday standards, and it steadily decreased through the evening. This is probably good for the site, since no major mud spots developed. It the weather breaks this morning a few hours of sunshine will take care of most of the site. The main stage will be cordoned and tarp staking will be held off until the ground is dry.
The bugs were noticeable at first, and they continued to come out when the rain was light. However all the traffic across the grass has flattened the grass, and that will have squashed bugs and deprived them of shelter. Still, I think people who won’t use DEET based repellents will be uncomfortable this year.
My first night as a site security volunteer was uneventful. I found the volunteers that I was working with to be cheerful and involved. There was some learning for everyone including experienced volunteers – remembering radio talk, remembering how to handle radios under rain ponchos, and learning the site and patrol location names. We had one girl who was soaked and chilled who was taken back to first aid to be dried, dressed and warmed up. We helped with wheelchairs. We had a report of a man in a cowboy hat with a large sheath knife. He turned out to be carrying a leatherman tool. He was drunk and seemed to have an issue – perhaps claustrophobia, perhaps impaired vision, or just the usual things with drunks – he would not wait in the small lineups at the portables and kept going off into the darkness behind the toilet to relieve himself through the fence.
We tried to get the dancers to stay in the dancing area, and to stop crowding the tarp area. For some reason the Tegan and Sara set seemed to evoke this behaviour. Mainly we looked at backstages passes at the backstage gate or walked around the site.
The stage crew seemed to have things under control. There were a number of performers lined up to perform short sets of 3 or 4 songs between the major sets, and the audience got a fairly steady diet of music, without much of the inane host chatter that used to come off the main stage. Dan Frechette and local vocal trio the Wailing Jennies were among the short set performers.
The first performers of the Festival were a Winnipeg blues bar band called the Perpetrators, who played barroom blues. They seemed competent and were well received.
Spirit of the West played next, and they pleased the crowd with a polished, engaged performance that drew on music written over a respectable career. I’ve noticed that some of their songs, written years ago like Save this House and Home for a Rest are being discovered by teenagers and embraced by a new set of fans.
Tegan and Sara pleased their loyal fans. I wasn’t caught by the music and couldn’t make the lyrics out.
Taj Mahal and the Hula Blues closed the night. The crowd was greatly reduced by the time they came on, and their set up had some problems, but they paid back patience by playing a long set that ended after midnight. It’s a large ensemble and the sound was wonderful, and everyone in the band was experienced and professional. They put on a great show. At the end, most of the few hundred patrons left were crowded in front of center stage dancing.
The small crowd dispersed quickly.
And that’s my first day.