The Whoop and Hollar Folk Festival is back again for 2023. Festival Coordinator Linda Omichinski says they're starting up the weekend before September long weekend, at Cottonwood Acres just southeast of Portage. There are some new features as well as a sampling of the festival on Island Park.

Festival coordinator Linda Omichinski notes they are highlighting three stages including their main stage, the Red Barn Harlequin Hangout (an emerging artists stage), and the Kids Stage.

"Lulu and the Tomcat will be playing for the children," notes Omichinski. "We will have children's activities hosted by Creative Corner. Hula hoops and a scavenger hunt will be all part of the fun, as well. In addition, we will have different workshops going on. Campfire jams will be led by $2 Bill and His Bad Pennies at midnight when the main stage closes. We have three different campfire sites and also the jamming can happen in the barn acoustically, while the main stage is going on."

She says food vendors, artisans, and tent camping will be on site with trailer camping nearby again at Island Park. Omichinski says a new feature is a community outreach event at Island Park at the Ukrainian Bandstand.

"Portage la Prairie doesn't really know that much about folk music and knows more about country music," continues Omichinski. "So, we want them to experience these genres of folk music by having a Sunday afternoon, August 27th, of live music from 1:00 to 4:30 for free. They can have a taste of what Whoop and Hollar is about, in terms of having the music component."

She says one artist who showcases on the Ukrainian bandstand is Nelson Little, a local musician.

"What's really neat about folk, which is a little bit parallel to country, is the storytelling," notes Omichinski. "Nelson Little will tell his stories through his music. As will the other artists. Christa Lucas, Deacon Creek, and Shay Wolf will also be playing on Sunday, so we have the full lineup out there."

She explains Artistic Director Josh Wright has made it diverse and inclusive. Omichinski says this particular formula of different kinds of music.

"High Gravity Stew Brew is one of the main attractions that we have, which is a fusion workshop," adds Omichinski. "And if you throw Heartsleeve in there, which is an eclectic band of folk, indie, reggae, world music, and bluegrass, add in Violet Vopni, who's pop, folk vocal, jazz, a capella, then add in Mark Reeves with blues, and Jace Bodner with soul and funk (you get them to rotate their songs and play each other songs), that's going to be an amazing, amazing workshop."

Omichinski says there are some Indigenous acts including Indian City as one of the headliners and Kael Sauerborn.

Wright adds it's a blend of Manitoba singer/songwriters this year, noting all the acts are from our province.

"We're introducing all these artists from a wide gamut of different backgrounds and cultures to the Portage community," says Wright. "The festival draws from all over Manitoba. And there are emerging acts and seasoned acts all playing together on one stage. It's going to be a great weekend of music."

This year's additional new feature is the Manitoba Country Voice competition that took place earlier this year. 

"We have chosen to showcase the Peoples Choice award, and that was Monika Machado," adds Omichinski. "It turns out that she has a cover band with different genres of music. So, when the main stage goes quiet at 6:00, Monika and her band are called Dancing In Ur Pantz. What does that mean? We're going to be dancing. We'll be in the Red Barn and probably people will be dancing outside. Rhea Goertzen is another local singer/songwriter that we need to look out for because she's elevating her talent and her songs. Ed Goertzen will be accompanying her, but we're focusing on Rhea rather than on Ed, and she actually won the Manitoba Country Voice this year."

It all takes place on August 26th and 27th, the weekend before September long.