Council deflates Portage's Whoop and Hollar Folk Festival by cutting days
Intimate folk festival of hundreds unfairly being compared to Dauphin Countryfest, organizer alleges
A folk festival on the outskirts of Portage la Prairie, Man., known as the Whoop at the Hoop, is being asked to tone it down.
Only two months before the Whoop and Hollar Folk Festival was to unveil an expanded three-day show, politicians in the rural municipality decided the longer event goes against the spirit of the one-day festival that council initially approved in 2017.
Organizers of the folk festival, which entices a few hundred music fans each year, are dismayed after already booking musicians, signing sponsorships and securing funding for the three-day event.
"We are being portrayed as a Dauphin Countryfest, which in 2017 had 14,000 visitors, but we are a small, intimate peaceful family-friendly festival," co-founder Linda Omichinski told CBC Manitoba's Radio Noon on Wednesday.
Festival wanted to limit attendance
"The type of music that folk festivals have do not have a culture of extreme … drinking behaviour," she said. "It's more about having a good time."
Omichinski sought to cap attendance at 500 festival-goers this year, after attracting around 300 people for the one-day event.
The Whoop and Hollar Folk Festival is held on a 4½-acre lot near the Hoop and Holler bend, a renowned stretch of Provincial Road 331 southeast of Portage la Prairie.
The organizers decided to stretch the seventh edition of their folk festival into three days, spanning Aug. 23-25, to increase the event's prominence and unlock additional funding.
We've been put in a very difficult position because the promotion has been out the past 10 months- Linda Omichinski
They thought they had the blessing of the RM of Portage la Prairie when the Whoop at the Hoop was designated in 2018 as the municipality's signature event — a status that elevated the burgeoning festival in the eyes of grant agencies and throughout the region and province.
The folk festival was being promoted as a three-day event, and the RM did not raise objections, Omichinski said.
She realized something was off when a request for RV camping was denied earlier this month.
They were told by council on Tuesday they hadn't gone through the right hoops.
'Difficult position' for organizers
"We've been put in a very difficult position because the promotion has been out the past 10 months and we're told this, two months prior to the actual festival date," Omichinski said.
Municipal Reeve Kam Blight said council felt the expanded Whoop and Hollar goes beyond the scope of the information that council would have considered in 2017. The conditional use application did not state how many days the event could last.
Blight said the objections of neighbours are legitimate. They worried about a glut of parking, trespassing, the access of emergency vehicles and biosecurity concerns that abound with high-value crops.
Omichinski said the festival was planning additional security, fencing and signage, but the argument didn't sway council.
The festival could apply for another conditional use application and ultimately another public hearing, but Omichinski said time isn't on their side. They are instead planning for an acoustic-type event on Friday and the usual festival on Saturday.
The next day happens to be Omichinski's 40th wedding anniversary.
"If anyone shows up expecting the festival on the 25th, we'll make every effort to make sure they're not disappointed," she said.
Blight said he encourages the festival's growth, but organizers should evaluate if they've outgrown their venue.
With files from Janice Grant, Ify Chiwetelu