Looking up at the night sky last Friday you would have seen a big, bright, beautiful full moon. It was the harvest moon – that’s the full moon just before autumnal equinox on Sept. 21.
This September’s full moon was a bit more auspicious than most. It was a super moon to some (depending on how one measured it) and it was partially eclipsed as well.
Perhaps most appropriately, it marked the 15th Annual Harvest Moon Festival in Clearwater, MB, 200 km to the southwest of Winnipeg in the picturesque Pembina Valley.
In the past, the harvest moon has occurred only a couple of other times on Festival weekend. It was fitting this time, as by most accounts the 15th installment of Harvest Moon Festival was one of the best ever.
The sunny, warm weather for most of the weekend was a nice complement to this year’s event that featured outstanding concerts by some of the best in Manitoba musical talent, engaging workshops on several fascinating topics, and a bustling farmer’s market and fair.
It all made for a bountiful 15th anniversary harvest of food, entertainment and inspiration over three glorious September days.
The Festival was sold out in advance, something that’s become a regular thing around here. The reason is once you speak to those attending.
Most festival goers I canvassed had nothing but praise for the event. Whether I inquired about the music, the food, the workshops, the site, the town, or just about anything else, the responses were extremely positive.
“I love this intimate little festival located in a beautiful Manitoba setting with rolling hills,” said Linda Rost, who first came to the festival last year and plans to return next year as well.
Another attendee, Dianne Rondeau, echoed Rost’s sentiments. “Harvest Moon Festival is a wholesome little music festival that brings people back to their roots – through its music, its people, and its simple connection to the land and the food we eat,” said Rondeau.
“I love how small it is, and I love the setting – it’s gorgeous and so easy to re-connect with nature. Love it,” Rondeau exclaimed.
Three stages (main stage, jam stage and another at the local restaurant) featured one impressive act after another. Looking at this year’s lineup it’s easy to see why most people were entertained. Every concert I saw was either really good, great or fantastic. And all from Manitoba.
“Great performances,” said Rost. “And I like how the festival is immersed in the local community.”
The small town of Clearwater truly embraces this Festival. Granted, it took a few years for that to come about. Today, this special urban/rural collaboration has spawned a gem of an event, along with the creation of the Harvest Moon Society (HMS) in 2002.
“Healthy Land, Healthy Communities” is the focus of HMS, with the goal of creating sustainable communities for current and future generations. Some of this work is done through rural revitalization projects in and around Clearwater.
HMS also operates the Harvest Moon Learning Centre in Clearwater’s former elementary school. Volunteer-run programs include university courses, youth camps, gardening internships, school field trips, workshops and hands on initiatives such as gardens, a greenhouse, a sweat lodge and an adobe oven.
Local food growers also work together to supply organic, grass-fed and sustainably produced local goods to buying clubs in Winnipeg and Brandon, making it possible for people to buy their groceries directly from organic farmers in Manitoba.
Some new features unveiled at this year’s Harvest Moon Festival included an expanded main stage seating area thanks to neighbour Dixie Gardiner sharing her land. This provided the space for a permanent main stage to be built by Robert Guilford and many hardworking associates.
The new main stage will be available for other events throughout the year. It’s also graced with a backdrop created by artist and musician Keri Latimer. And as usual, there were many volunteers on hand to help the weekend event run smoothly.
If you’ve never been, or you’ve been coming for years, you many want to get your tickets to next year’s Festival early, as it’s almost certain to sell out in advance, and pretty much guaranteed to offer up a weekend of great entertainment, local foods, arts and crafts, inspiration, education and fun.