Onlookers lined up under a hot August sun to watch the horse shows and a pleasure driving competition, wander through the home living show and vintage car display, finishing the afternoon inside the Kelwood Legion with friends and a couple of beer.
At the other end of town, another small crowd settled onto lawn chairs and blankets to spend the day and evening to listen to folk music and munch on hotdogs and spicy Jamaican jerk chicken.
It was fair – and festival – day in tiny Kelwood, where a traditional agricultural fair and the more recently organized Harvest Sun Music Festival have become a draw for a somewhat eclectic crowd.
“We joke that we triple our population,” says Nadia Kuhl, the young Kelwood mom whose close ties to the Manitoba folk music scene led to founding the Harvest Sun Music Festival here in 2006.
The Kelwood fair and festival is a mix of old and new, the former run by an ag society around for 114 years, the latter just six years young.
BUMPS IN THE ROAD
There’s been a few bumps along the road to link the two events together, say organizers. As Pearl S. Buck once put it “you gauge your age by the amount of pain you feel when encountering a new idea.”
But parked in his pickup at the music festival entrance gate, agricultural society president Duane Stewart said he’s just sorry his double hip replacement keeps him from making the trek into the festival site.
“It’s all worked out very well, the two of us working together,” Stewart says. “One event compliments the other. We’ve been really pleased with their support and we hope they’re pleased with ours.”
Kuhl’s a hometown girl, who left Kelwood for a few years, then returned when a house she’d always loved came up for sale.
Now raising her young family here, and running a catering business, Kuhl said she saw an opportunity, among folk music fans who were also attracted to rural life, to link a music festival with the fair. The fair by itself wouldn’t get them to come out to Kelwood. But the combined event does.
And while here some do a little tire kicking about what it might be like to live in a small, rural village like Kelwood.
“There’s a lot of people who come out here for the music festival who drive around town that weekend who start thinking, ‘I could live here,’” said Kuhl.
“It’s changing views about rural life.”
The Kelwood Improvement Society is the small, charitable group that runs the music festival.
They also put a “thank a farmer” focus to the festival, bringing in speakers such as Janet Smith with Manitoba Farm and Rural Services to give a little talk between musicians, and share a piece of the farm story. They want to help non-farming people see ways they could support the local farming community, Kuhl said.
“We’ve worked on different ways to provide a voice for farmers,” she said, adding that the festival benefits piggybacking on the fair because it’s part of their community’s heritage and “very accepted.”
“We wanted to connect with them in some way and see where it can take us.”
The fair and festival also collaborated with the Riding Mountain National Park this summer arranging for a shuttle bus to carry visitors in Wasagaming out to Kelwood.
The co-joined fair and festival exemplifies the kind of partnerships the Manitoba Association of Agricultural Societies is urging ag society members to pursue as fair attendance dwindles and fair volunteer bases lose steam.
The August 20 and 21 line up included alternative-country musician Nathan and Juno award winning Chic Gamine, the Dust Poets with Murray Evans of Onanole, Neepawa traditional singer-songwriter Rob Waddell, Trio Bembe, Deep Dark Woods, The McKillop Family Band, Rick Neufeld, (composer of Moody Manitoba Morning), The Liptonians and Washboard Hank.
Organizers expected to exceed their festival’s 2010 attendance number of 350 during the weekend.
“It’sallworkedoutverywell,the twoofusworkingtogether.One eventcomplimentstheother.”
– DUANE STEWART, KELWOOD AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY PRESIDENT
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