Bundled up in parkas, visitors arrive in car loads at a country home and stomp snow from their boots as they walk up the driveway.
Little flames flicker in ice lanterns and lead the way inside.
There's a party in this neck of the woods near Onanole, just south of Riding Mountain National Park in southwestern Manitoba.
Inside Whirlpool B & B, a sprawling bed and breakfast friends, family, town locals and travellers are about to settle in for an epic regional-cuisine dinner, followed by an intimate concert by folk, pop and reggae-influenced indie band The New Lightweights.
Chairs, sofas and cushions are set up in the living room around a makeshift stage, all in anticipation of the evening's entertainment.
This is a Harvest Sun Dinner and a Concert, a live-music house concert, feast and celebration of winter in Manitoba's countryside.
They're an intimate, cozy and often lively celebration of local music. They're also a great reason to get together with neighbours and friends during the heart of a Prairie winter.
House concerts have been on the scene in Manitoba since about 2007, when Winnipeg-based company Home Routes launched. That company brings home owners and folk roots rockers together on 14 homespun concert circuits that criss-cross Canada. Their season runs from September to December and February to late April.
The non-profit company sends touring musicians on a home-concert circuit that mirror the efficiency of a large-scale concert tour which hops across the map, one stop after another. Performers also typically stay for the night and also get a meal from the home owners hosting the concert too.
Inside Whirlpool B & B, concert nights are enchanting.
"The feeling is so wonderful and magical. It's such a positive vibe," says Karly McRae, owner of Whirlpool B & B and co-creator of her own house-concert series.
McRae and her cousin Nadia Kuhl, who also happens to be the artistic director for the area's annual Harvest Sun Music Festival, hosted their first house concert near Onanole, three hours west ofWinnipeg, in January 2012. The response has been amazing. They have also hosted concerts only, including a recent evening with blues rockers Romi Mayes and Jay Nowicki.
The evenings have quickly become a popular ticket for music lovers from as far away as Brandon and Dauphin, as well as nearby friends and neighbours, says McRae.
"It was just something to bring the community together to enjoy each others' company," she says. "And to appreciate each other and celebrate the arts and local food."
Music lovers dig into a feast loaded with Manitoba regional cuisine before sitting down to a house concert at Whirlpool B & B. Photo by Simply Rosie Photography.
Made-in-Manitoba House Concerts
Whirlpool B & B hosts four concerts per year (including one dinner and a concert). Concerts are held November, December, February and March. Tickets cost $20 each or $50 each for dinner and a concert. For more information call 204-212-2595 or click here.
Home Routes, a non-profit organization, was started in 2007 in Winnipeg to celebrate Canadian music and support independent artists across the country. Today, more than 200 concerts are held in homes throughout the year. For more information call 204-480-3380 or click here.
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