Lac du Bonnet’s Fire and Water Music Festival – Featured Arts Organization – Issue #141

April 2024

For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council features Lac du Bonnet’s Fire and Water Music Festival. Held on the August long weekend, this annual event showcases a varied program of unique, high-quality performers, including some of the best music Manitoba has to offer. Along with attracting people from across the region and far-flung places, it provides a chance for artistic collaborations and a boost to the local economy.

The festival’s roots can be linked to the Old Pinawa Dam Jam, a music festival held in 1997, at what is now known as Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park. Some key organizers of that event, which ran for 2 years, included Victor Lange, Rudy Klassen, Karen Augustine, Sean Keith, Anthony Kost, Clint Chaboyer and Claude Deveau.

In 2007, Sheldon Sveinson and several local volunteers initiated a rebirth of the Dam Jam and created the Fire and Water Music Festival. The newborn version emerged on a small Third Street stage in Lac du Bonnet, during the Canada Day weekend. For thirteen years, this festival, held in and around the Lac du Bonnet Community Centre, presented a variety of musical acts, related artistic events, and markets.

In 2019, Marie Hiebert took over, with help from a totally new board of directors and “old” volunteers. They put on the last festival held behind the community centre. For the next two years, they staged smaller events, just enough to keep the organization alive.

In 2022, the board decided to relocate to the former site of the Lakers’ Water Ski Club. This spot proved to be a better fit, with access to the river, trees and grass surfaces, and more room for parking, stages, food trucks, vendors, tents, and children’s activities.

Hiebert said, “We have no paid staff. We are a hard working group, consisting of a board of directors and over 100 other volunteers. We put in approximately 2000 hours of time to ensure high quality music programing for the weekend and throughout the year.”

Fire and Water is funded and supported by various government agencies, the RM and Town of Lac du Bonnet, and numerous local businesses and volunteer groups. There are no membership requirements and the event(s) are open to the general public.

“Throughout the year, the festival hosts open mic sessions at the St. John’s Heritage Church,” Hiebert said. “And we present a concert series, three to five times a year, bringing in musical performances from far and wide,”

Stated goals include: promote and support Manitoba artists, strengthen and grow each year, provide cutting edge, high-quality programming, and entice audience members to discover amazing artists at a family friendly and inclusive outdoor festival.

In the future, Fire and Water wants to attract 600 -1000 people through the gates, become more self-sufficient with stable revenues, own more of its own equipment and physical assets, increase pre-sales, and commit to ongoing planning for the future.

Looking ahead to next summer’s event, Hiebert said, “Our board transition this year is really exciting. We have a great year planned with a new marketing strategy and, of course, a fantastic line-up. We book mainly Manitoba talent and try to stay as local as possible. And we are very aware of the wide range of talent right here in the Winnipeg River area. Currently we are working on additions to Sunday’s program that will be super cool, and we have new and fun food trucks. Another feature of our festival is that camping (tents and RV’s) is so close to the site, a joy in itself.”

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