Thousands of Winnipeggers will pack their bags and head out to the Winnipeg Folk Festival Wednesday morning.

The annual festival is in its 41st year, and at 7 a.m. Wednesday, the gates will open and the annual flood of cars will pour in.

"It's taken up to eight hours in the past if you're further back, but this year, we've got a new parking process for the campground,” said festival director Lynne Skromeda. “We're expecting it'll probably be closer to four hours to get everybody through."

Winnipeg Folk Festival mainstage

Winnipeg Folk Festival organizers are expecting about 5,000 people to show up early Wednesday morning to set up their campsites. (Travis Ross )

Organizers are asking people not to head to the site before 7 a.m., and RCMP will be on hand asking people stopped on Highway 59 to keep it moving.

About 5,000 people are expected to arrive first thing, while 80,000 are expected over the entire five-day festival.

And there could be more visitors than usual.

This year, for the first time ever, kids under 12 get in free.

A few other changes at the park include a ban on selling water bottles. Instead, visitors can buy refillable mugs for $3.

There’s also a bigger composting initiative, and for the first time in years, camping passes aren’t yet sold out.

Some things are staying the same though. There will be no mosquito control.

The Bros. Landreth

The Bros. Landreth will kick off the 41st annual Winnipeg Folk Fest Wednesday evening on the main stage. (courtesy The Bros. Landreth)

“We’re in a provincial park. It’s sort of the nature of our audience. People don’t want to have fogging,” said Skromeda. “We allow people just to do what’s right for them.”

Local band The Bros. Landreth are opening the festival Wednesday night.

A huge honour, said frontman Joey Landreth just before a last-minute Tuesday practise. 

“We don't often get nervous, but this is one of those moments where we'll be incredibly nervous. I'm just trying not to think about it,” said Landreth.

Both David and Joey have gone to the fest since they were children.

“Dave and I actually used to work as stage hands on the main stage, so it’s going to be cool to get up there and not be working,” said Landreth.

The festival runs July 9 to July 13.