Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival organizers continue to fine-tune details leading up to this weekend’s festival to be held at the Portage Ex grounds, Aug. 28 & 29.
Arguably one of the only live outdoor festivals of the summer to be held in Manitoba, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Whoop & Hollar is reducing the number of parking spots available at the drive-in event to reflect any health and safety concerns.
“We are ready for an excellent festival this weekend and are going the extra step to ensure all attendees, volunteers, performers, and the community are safe, especially given the rise in COVID-19 cases in Manitoba,” says artistic director and co-organizer, Josh Wright. “One of the ways we are doing this is going with a maximum of 50 vehicle pods per night, down from about 70.”
The Manitoba Government currently limits all outdoor gatherings to no more than 100 people in the Southern Health Region, although allowances for multiple cohorts of 100 people can be made given they do not mingle with one another.
After reaching a mutual agreement with the local public health inspector, organizers say the festival’s modified parking arrangement of two cohorts, each with 100 people, will provide adequate distancing while giving festival-goers some extra space and improved sightlines.
“Since we are averaging three people per pod pass, 50 pods would allow us to stay within our total attendance limit of 200 people and give folks a little more room to relax and enjoy the show with their families and those in their immediate COVID social bubble,” adds Wright.
Since May, Whoop & Hollar has worked closely with Manitoba Public Health to ensure all federal and provincial health guidelines were met before planning an outdoor event—including adequate physical distancing, encouraged use of masks, sanitization of high-touch surfaces, contactless payments, COVID-19 screening, contact tracing, and allowing Manitoban residents only. Festival organizers were even tossing around the idea of holding a virtual festival before the loosening of restrictions.
“The decision to hold an outdoor live festival was not taken lightly,” explains festival coordinator and co-founder, Linda Omichinski. “This is why we are following Public Health’s strict guidelines and carefully proceeding with a physically-distanced, drive-in event. We are intentionally not having any vendors, workshops, or camping on-site because that encourages a congregation of people in a confined area. Instead, we are inviting people to bring their own picnic while enjoying live music in an outdoor setting.”
While all outdoor public gatherings are required to maintain physical distancing at all times, several musical events in Manitoba are carrying on without a drive-in format this summer and fall.
“We don’t have to do a drive-in event and are not prohibited from having vendors on-site, but we are choosing this format to be extra cautious during COVID-19 while still lifting hearts, healing minds, freeing spirits, and bringing people together in a safe manner,” adds Omichinski. “Most
importantly, the music industry is in peril and our struggling musicians get a live paid gig with an audience. It doesn’t get better than that.”
All attendees must be prepaid and stay in their pods at all times unless to use the restroom. Festival-goers are encouraged to decorate their pod and make it festive, bring a lawn chair and enjoy the music in the open air, have a picnic with their group, or dance under the stars.
“Pods are filling up and it is now more important than ever to purchase advance tickets if you would like to attend two fantastic evenings of top-notch live concerts,” says Wright.
Registering online guarantees a vehicle and up to six passengers in the same bubble one pod. Smaller cars or motorcycles are preferred for optimal viewing experience, with fewer spots available for SUVs, minivans, and small to average trucks.
Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival takes place at the Portage Ex grounds on Friday, Aug. 28 and Saturday, Aug. 29 from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. with gates opening at 5 p.m. The ticket deadline will be extended to 6 p.m. Aug. 27 for Friday night pod pass sales and 6 p.m. Aug. 28 for Saturday night.
Organizers are preparing for possible drive-ups which may be admitted on-site for $20 cash/vehicle, where contact tracing will need to be done at the gate. Public health updates and inclement weather details will be posted on the website, if necessary. Complete festival info can be found at whoopandhollar.com.