As soon as Trout Forest co-founder Lloyd Romaniuk moved to Ear Falls, a small fishing town near the Manitoba border, he knew it would be the perfect spot for a festival. Along with partner Yvonne Lewis, Romaniuk’s vision came to life in 1996. Around 100 people came out to this humble, grassroots music festival in its first year, and Trout Forest’s tight-knit community feel and beautiful Northern Ontario locale has attracted many more attendees and impressive musical acts every August since.
Over the years, Trout Forest has welcomed to its stages a range of beloved Canadian folk-roots artists. Past line-ups have included Winnipeg favourites Fred Penner and Joey Landreth (of the Bros. Landreth), Juno award-winners like Fred Eaglesmith and Oh Susanna, and a range of songwriting-songwriters including Jadea Kelly, Jim Bryson, Geoff Berner, Carolyn Mark, Deep Dark Woods, Annie Sumi and Campbell Woods.
Most of the nearly 2000 attendees at Trout Forest camp in Ear Falls Waterfront Park. Throughout the three days of the festival, swimming in the scenic English River near the Waterfront Stage is a popular daytime activity, and kayaks and stand up paddle boards are available for rent. Craft and food vendors are also featured on the festival grounds.
In the early years of the festival, when both the festival attendance and budget were precariously low, performers and attendees would perform acoustically late into the night, soliciting donations from festival-goers. This makeshift solution, which generated significant revenue for the artists and ensured the festival could continue year to year, is now a Trout Forest tradition. Every night after the on-stage performances finish, scheduled performers, amateur musicians and other attendees gather around a bonfire to informally share songs. This tradition represents what co-founder what Romaniuk calls the “small northern flair” of Trout Forest.