The Harvest Festival is just days away, and the annual fair is ready to offer familiar favourites as well as some new events for residents and tourists alike.
The festival will kick off on Friday, with the midway, food vendors and kids entertainment opening at 3:00 p.m. Friday night’s entertainment, free at the Main Stage, is Jukebox Heroes, the Bryan Adams Tribute Show and Night Fever, a Bee Gees tribute band.
Saturday night as country night as Byron Falk and the Halftime Cowboys, Quinton Blair and Restless Heart take to the Main Stage. Sunday features Upstanding Comedy with Timmy Boyle, The Ball Brothers, Colton Dixon and, of course, the fireworks show.
Organizer Deb Penner said she has two rules when it comes to entertainment. “Try not to bring the same band back more than once and have lots of variety,” she said. “I know I can’t please everyone but we try to please almost everyone.”
The parade takes place at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday as usual, and runs east on Mountain until it hits Main Street, where it turns north before turning west on Roblin and ending at Park Street.
This year’s festival is being dedicated to Gary and Tammy Berg, who died in a traffic accident just weeks after the festival last year. “Gary, as co-owner of DA Loewen Electric, was a vital part of the festival for many years, ensuring that our vendors and entertainers had the electricity needed for the festival to run smoothly,” Penner said. “They were very important to our community and are dearly missed.”
New this year, the Harvest Festival will be holding a scavenger hunt called Goose Chase. The hunt is a family event that takes place on Sunday afternoon. Participants will download the Goose Chase app on their phones and will complete missions to gain points. There is still room for teams to join, just add the app on your phone, search for ‘Harvest Festival’ and the app will alert you when the scavenger hunt begins on Sunday.
Penner said some changes have taken place at the Showcase Stage. “We’ve changed the Showcase Stage to the Country Fair and brought back lots of things you might see at small town fair, just a variety of novelty contests,” she said. “That does include bingo and trivia, plus the Pet Fashion Show, and other contests include a Burping Contest. It sounds crazy, but there is a National Burping Federation and we’re going to give it a try to see if it has any appeal.”
“The biggest addition this year is the Culture Tent, which happens Saturday and Sunday afternoon,” she added. “There will be 20 display tables, each representing a different country plus live entertainment featuring music and dance from Mexico, Russia, Canada, Polynesia and many others.”
Penner said the festival has been growing. “It’s apparent in the amount of people we see filling the grounds, and by the ‘creative’ parking that happens on the side streets, but we also have a waiting list for our vendors,” she said. “People just want to be a part of it and that’s very rewarding.”
The Harvest Festival is partnering with Blue W, which is a new citywide initiative that provides free water to anyone with a refillable bottle. “Several businesses have joined in the network to offer free water refills for people walking, biking or travelling through,” Penner said. “It especially makes sense for the festival weekend when it can be very hot and when people are spending several hours outdoors at a time. If you have a water bottle, it’s easy to fill it up whenever you need it. The arena in fact has a water refill station that’s available year round.”
Penner said the community support for the festival has been big. “As always, a huge thank you to the City of Winkler and so many of our local businesses for subsidizing the festival in order for it remain free,” she said. “Thank you to Shannon Loewen, the Co-Director who looks after the vendors and site plan, and so much more, and thanks to the army of volunteers who make it all possible. Everyone who enjoys the festival is encouraged to thank them personally when they see them in their green t-shirts.”