Whoop & Hollar allowed as drive in festival

After months of communicating with stakeholders, Whoop & Hollar Folk Fest confirmed last week the show will go on.

Whoop & Hollar has received approval for a modified two-day festival. The 2020 festival will be held in a drive-in format on August 28-29 at the Portage Ex Fairgrounds.

“Although we are saddened by the cancellation of so many live events, we are equally thrilled to be one of the only Manitoba festivals (if not the only) able to bring together Manitobans this summer (physically distanced, of course)” says Josh Wright, festival artistic director and co-organizer.

The festival will be pared-down, focusing on just the music this year, the lineup will consist of three mainstage spots on both Friday and Saturday evenings, at 7 p.m., 8:30 p.m., and 10 p.m. The venue will accommodate approximately 100 parked vehicles in front of a large portable stage, with some space for lawn chairs in distanced groups of no more than 100 persons in any given area.

Aug. 4 press release

Manitoba Festival Gets Innovative During COVID-19 Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival to proceed as a drive-in event in 2020

The calendar of Manitoba summer festivals hasn’t all been written off amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A small folk festival in Portage la Prairie—which scored a regional tourism award for marketing excellence in 2019—is creatively pushing ahead and bringing live music back to its eerily quiet, entertainment-hungry community this August.

It won’t be your typical experience at the Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival, however—attendees will drive in, park, enjoy the show from the comfort of their vehicles, and leave. The drive-in event will be held on the west side of the Portage Exhibition Grounds on Island Park rather than its usual site along Provincial Road 331, with capacity for approximately 70 parked vehicles.

“We are over the moon to be able to hold a festival in 2020, and obviously, things are going to look different, a lot different,” explains Josh Wright, festival artistic director and co-organizer. “This year’s event is pretty much going to be contactless, where festival-goers must physically distance at all times and register in advance without a single transaction at the gate.”

Organizers have spent the past three months carefully planning and researching safe alternatives to its regular festival format that would adhere to all of the Manitoba Government’s public health guidelines and protocols for events and gatherings. The drive-in format was the favoured choice for organizers, even over a virtual event.

“Although the festival will be streamed online, the live nature of music and art is authentic and really what Whoop & Hollar is about,” says Wright. “Virtual performances are just not the same, and if we can safely put on a live event while following all necessary guidelines, why not. It’s about time. People are missing the joy and unity that live music and connection brings.”

A growing number of drive-in music events have been successfully held in Europe, the US, and even Canada since the onset of COVID-19, including a Garth Brooks concert at Morden’s Stardust Theatre last month. Even so, Whoop & Hollar is the first festival in Manitoba and one of a handful in Canada to offer a live, drive-in option.

Following talks with local stakeholders, encouragement from the festival’s funder, and approval from Manitoba Health and the Province’s Restoring Safe Services Plan, the Whoop & Hollar organizing committee is proceeding with a scaled-down version of the festival. Music lovers can expect two evenings of top-notch Manitoba music on Friday, Aug. 28 and Saturday, Aug. 29, from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. each night.

“The focus will be strictly on the music this year, as no workshops, vendors, or camping will be taking place on-site,” adds Wright. “Regardless, it’s going to be a fun time and we are doing this solely for the well-being, joy, and spirit of our community, province, and local Manitoban performing artists, in a responsible manner.”

Festival founder and co-organizer, Linda Omichinski, invites those interested in attending to start thinking about who is in their social bubble when carpooling to the event.

“When attendees register online, they will have to reserve a ‘pod pass’ that admits one vehicle with up to six passengers to a ‘pod,’ or essentially a designated space for a vehicle and a small open area to the left of that vehicle,” Omichinski said. “With physical distancing measures in place, all members of your group must already be from the same common bubble and stay

within that bubble on the premises, so keep that in mind. You can sit either inside or outside your vehicle as long as you remain in your pod.”

Festival-goers are asked to bring along a smaller car or lower vehicle for the best viewing experience, as well as their own food and water. Large and oversized vehicles will not be encouraged, although a limited number of pods for minivans, SUVs, and smaller trucks will be available. Decorating of pods and vehicles, as well as picnics within your pod, are welcomed.

Limited pod passes are only $10 per vehicle and will become available at noon on Saturday, Aug. 8 on the ​festival’s website​. Admission is free by donation per individual within each pod. The event will also be live-streamed from the festival’s ​Facebook page​.

Should a significant second wave or outbreak of COVID-19 occur in Manitoba ahead of the festival weekend, organizers are informing the public that the Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival may be cancelled with little notice. General event info is also subject to change as government updates are released.

Organizers would like to thank the festival’s major sponsors—Canadian Heritage’s Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage program and Portage Industrial Exhibition Association—for supporting local, live music this year.


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