Austin Nafostowicz throws a ping-pong ball while partner David Hicks looks on. The pair came from Winnipeg to Dauphin for Countryfest. (CHARLES TWEED/BRANDON SUN)
Trailers as far as the eye can see are set up for Dauphin’s Countryfest. The lower campground was flooded earlier this week, but dried in time for campers to move in. (CHARLES TWEED/BRANDON SUN)
Barry Bloomfield, from Gilbert Plains, who has been coming to Dauphin’s Countryfest for 24 years, sits on his Harley Davidson motorcycle outside of his campsite. In previous years, Bloomfield has partied with bands like The Road Hammers after their set. (CHARLES TWEED/BRANDON SUN)
Brandon’s Kirsty Fischer takes dead aim at a blue cup while playing beer pong at Dauphin’s Countryfest on Thursday. Fischer, who has been coming to the festival for four years, is playing with her friend Michaela Kilbride. (CHARLES TWEED/BRANDON SUN)
Jeanie VanWorkum and Karen Krueger go from campsite to campsite on horseback, ensuring there is no garbage being left laying around. (CHARLES TWEED/BRANDON SUN )
DAUPHIN — If you could drink it through a straw, Dauphin’s Countryfest would be equal parts camping and partying, with a dash of country music on top.
By noon yesterday, festival-goers were already playing beer pong, blasting music from campsites and throwing Frisbees as part of the game "frisbeer" — or "fris-knock", or "beersbie," depending on who you talked to.
With the sun beating down on her back, Kirsty Fischer launched a ping-pong ball that landed squarely in a blue plastic cup at the other end of the table. The shot earned the team they were playing against just that — a shot of beer.
"Countryfest is so amazing," the 22-year-old Brandonite said. "There’s so many people here that everyone knows who come back every year. It’s Manitoba, the people are always friendly. We didn’t even know our neighbours and now we’re getting along fine."
Her neighbours, who they were battling in a game of beer pong, turned out to be two guys, also in their 20s, from Winnipeg.
Fischer has been coming to Countryfest for four years — or in other terms, since the time her dad thought her brother was old enough to take care of her at Manitoba’s largest country festival.
They planned on setting up their motorhome on Wednesday, but a string of unfortunate events postponed their arrival time.
First, just outside of Brandon, the motorhome got a flat. After some repairs, the crew was back on the road, only to experience another flat near Minnedosa. Limping the vehicle to the community, the motorhome’s battery was the next item to go.
When all was said and done, the group ended up staying the night in the Minnedosa Co-op parking lot. While the events could have put a damper on their plans, Fischer said it’s all part of the Countryfest experience.
"It was a lot of fun and actually all of the people from Minnedosa came over to help us," she said.
The trip may have hit the credit card a little harder than anticipated, but Fischer said it’s a small price to pay for three days of the best country music in the world.
She plans on going to see Jay-Z in Winnipeg, tickets that cost her $300. Countryfest will cost her less than that and she’ll see several more artists.
"Even if it wasn’t an awesome party, I’d still want to come here because it’s such a great show," Fischer said.
When asked who she most wants to see, Fischer didn’t skip a beat, "Blake Shelton."
Less than a minute’s walk away, Barry Bloomfield has been coming to the festival for 24 years.
Every year he brings a poster for party-goers to sign. Names from Australia, Europe and all throughout Canada and North America dot the poster.
He remembers when Countryfest was still just a small festival, originally the area was cleared to make way for a Ukrainian festival.
The biggest change has been the investment the host committee has made in upgrade, he said.
"The site preparation has changed so much," Bloomfield said. "When we first started coming, the whole place was under water and we were swimming half the time.
"Every year they do so much at the site and they put so much money back into the community."
By Saturday, Bloomfield expects to have more than 20 Harley Davidson motorcycles outside his camper, as friends from the area stream in.
He said there are thousands of photos of people from the festival on the bikes.
One year, the Road Hammers even came and partied with them, bringing their guitars for a sing-song.
Rain is in the forecast for the event again this year, but Bloomfield doesn’t expect it will deter anyone from having a good time.
"We’re not made of sugar," he joked. "Rain or shine, it’s a party. It could rain right now and no one would care.
"It’s all in the spirit of Countryfest. If you don’t come because it’s going to rain, you shouldn’t be a country music fan."
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 27, 2014