15 Jun Winnipeg Music Festival: Pairing Wine with Music at the Interstellar Rodeo
We have always been huge music fans, so when we had the chance to attend the Interstellar Rodeo music festival in Winnipeg last summer, we couldn’t have been more excited. With a name like Interstellar Rodeo, we weren’t quite sure what music to expect. Thankfully, we were pleasantly surprised to find a few bands that we already knew and liked listed on the schedule.
Our road trip through Manitoba was planned to coincide with the festival, so we spent the weekend in Winnipeg and then made our way to Riding Mountain National Park and Spruce Woods Provincial Park. It was a fantastic week exploring Manitoba, and the festival was the perfect way to kick off the trip.
Interstellar Rodeo is a three-day festival filled with great music, food, drinks and lots of fun. The festival is held at the Forks, which is right in the heart of downtown Winnipeg. You will find a unique mix of bands at the festival from genres such as soul, indie, rock and more, and the main emphasis is to feature artists “making waves in the roots and Americana world”. But, perhaps one of the most interesting aspects about the event is that the wine pairings were matched to the bands rather than the typical pairing of food. Each new set offers a featured wine that is selected to complement the band’s music. I loved this spin on wine pairings and it added an intriguing component to the festival.
The Interstellar Rodeo started in 2015, and it is held in two Canadian cities every year: Edmonton and Winnipeg. As I mentioned above, we attended the Winnipeg festival which was located at The Forks, a very convenient downtown location. And it was especially convenient for us since we were staying at the hotel right next door, The Inn at the Forks.
The festival gates typically open around 4:30 p.m. on Friday evening and 11:30 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, and it wraps each evening around 10-10:30 p.m. There are no camping facilities on site like some other festivals we’ve been to, but there are plenty of nearby hotels to retire to for the evening. Tickets are offered in two forms: a weekend pass or single day passes. There are discounts for youth and senior tickets while children under 12 are admitted for free.
There are no assigned seats during the festival. All tickets are general admission and you can bring a blanket or a low profile lawn chair to sit on, or you are free to find a spot on the grass or at one of the picnic tables on the grounds. In front of the stage, there is a line on the ground to divide the grass lawn in half. One side of the grass is for standing room and the other is for lawn chair seating. I loved how this was set up—it allowed everyone a great view no matter their preference.
If you don’t want to be up close to the stage, there is plenty of room and open space to sit farther back on one of the hills. We tried out several spots during our three days at the festival, and besides standing near the stage, one of our favorites was on the grass hill in front of the parking garage.
If you want a more exclusive experience, there is also the option to add on a ticket for the VIP section, but I’ll go into more detail on that below.
In order to reduce the environmental footprint of the festival, a green initiative has been implemented. There are free water stations around the festival where you can refill your reusable water bottle. Also, instead of giving the crew and artists disposable plastic water bottles, the festival provides them with refillable water bottles to reduce waste. A bike valet station is set up so you can ride to the festival and park your bike worry free. And, instead of handing out paper flyers, festival goers can download the Interstellar Rodeo phone app for the latest on schedules, artists, wine pairings, FAQs and more.
Cameras and photos are allowed at the festival, but if you are planning on bringing a larger DSLR camera with a detachable lens, you will need to obtain a media pass. And, don’t worry if your phone runs out of battery because there are convenient phone charging stations available on site!
Around 15 bands take the stage throughout the weekend, and the music is a mix from a variety of genres such as indie, soul, country noir, rock and more. The music selection changes every year, but some of the bands we really enjoyed were Wilco, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, the Strumbellas, case/lang/veirs, and Serena Ryder.
We only recognized a few of the bands that were performing, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying practically every set we heard. Outdoor concerts are our favorite, and what could be better than listening to music as the sun sets and the lights fade on? We even left Winnipeg with a few new artists on our iTunes playlist, which is always an indication of a successful festival weekend!
Food and Drinks:
Wine, beer, cider, and local food trucks were all present in abundance during the event. Several food trucks set up shop towards the edges of the festival grounds and they serve everything from fish to poutine to tacos to popsicles.
We tried an order of the fresh walleye fish and chips and couldn’t resist a strawberry lemonade popsicle from the PopCart.
The drink tents offered a variety of craft beer, cider and wine, and there are water stations available where you can refill your reusable water bottles. There were regular wine offerings throughout the festival, and during each set, a new featured wine was offered. The idea behind the wine and music pairing came from Gurvinder Bhatia, who is a wine writer and personality, as well as an avid music lover. It is certainly a fun twist on more traditional pairings, and if you think about it, the concept makes sense and adds a thought provoking twist to both the music and wine. Artists tell stories through their music just as a wine reveals its own story of its roots and origins during a tasting.
If you want to learn more about the artists and/or the wine pairings to go along with them, be sure to have a look at the festival app for more details.
The VIP section was located on the top level of the parking lot towards the back of the festival grounds. One aspect that I appreciated about the VIP section was the abundance of comfortable couches and chairs—it was a nice break from sitting on the grass in the general admission area!
The views from the VIP area were good if you had a spot at the railing, but if not you couldn’t really see the stage. You were able to hear the music throughout the entire festival grounds and VIP section though, so if views don’t matter to you, then relaxing on one of the couches is a great alternative. In addition to the seating, the VIP area offered less crowds, much shorter lines for drinks, snack bowls on several of the tables, and shaded areas from the sun. And perhaps one of the best features was a clean bathroom (granted it was a porta potty) with toiletries and a mirror situated outside.
Our favorite way to utilize the VIP section was to spend a bit of time reveling in the nicer amenities, while catching the views from a table near the railing, and then popping down to the general admission area for alternative views and a bit more action. We loved being able to go between the two areas—it was the best of both worlds!
After Interstellar Party:
After the Saturday evening music is done for the night, the action moves over to the Food Hall at the Forks Market for an after party from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. Tickets for the after party are an additional cost, but with the price of your ticket you will get complimentary food and drink samples until 11:30 p.m., and even more music. It’s a great way to keep the party going if you aren’t quite ready to call it quits for the night!
While we didn’t stay at the festival the entire weekend (we had other sightseeing to do in Winnipeg, after all!), we thoroughly enjoyed popping in and out to see several different bands. We loved the laid back atmosphere of the festival combined with the energy from fantastic musicians and the crowd—it was a wonderful way to spend a weekend in the city!
Special thanks to Travel Manitoba for providing us with complimentary admission to the Interstellar Rodeo. As always, all opinions are our own.