First Timer's Guide to Ness
Five Things Everyone Who's Never Been to Ness Needs to Know
“Mind blowing musical performances… magical hikes in the beautiful Saskatchewan boreal forest… sunrise jams around a campfire… reunions with old friends and kindred family.” - Ness attendee
“(It’s) like Woodstock, but in Saskatchewan.” - Ness attendee
1) IT’S A HIDDEN GEM (BUT IT’S NOT HARD TO FIND)
Finding the festival site for the first time can be an adventure. If you’re lucky enough to already live nearby, you know that area like the back of your hand and Ness is just a hop, skip and a jump away. If you’re like most Ness-goers, though, you’re traveling from across the province (or the country) and are probably less familiar with the highways and grid roads of the north. Make sure you stock up with lots of friends, tunes, and road snacks, and travel during the day to make sure you don’t miss any signs. Soon you’ll think of the trip up to Ness as the best kind of weekend road trip and the beginning of your amazing festival experience, as you leave the city behind and travel under sunny prairie skies to the magical cocoon of the Boreal Forest… but for now, just remember to keep our maps and directions close at hand.
2) IT’S A CAMPING FESTIVAL
There’s nothing better than drifting off to sleep in a cozy tent under the Northern Saskatchewan stars or sitting around a campfire, enjoying the sound of music drifting through the forest. The tent city community that pops up at Ness each year is one of the festival’s most beloved elements. Bring your guitar and jam around the campfire all night (leave the canned music at home), or score a spot in the Quieter Camping field, where the jamming winds down by 10pm. Check out our packing list and camping dos and don’ts and get prepared for your weekend of bush living! And if roughing it just isn’t your thing, you can rent a yurt from the nearby Nesslin Lake Campground, just a 15-minute shuttle ride away from the Festival site.
3) IT’S SO MUCH MORE THAN THE MAIN STAGE LINEUP
Surrounded by spruce trees in the middle of “Downtown Ness Creek,” ringed by blankets and festival chairs, and packed with powerhouse sets from local, national and international acts from the well-known to the new discovery, the Ness Main Stage is a beautiful thing. But it’s just the beginning – the Festival weekend is packed full of music, dance, theatre, puppetry, yoga, and much more across its many programming venues. There’s even an Iron Chef competition! It’s impossible to catch it all, so make sure to pick up a Festival Program and figure out which events are a must-see for you. Here’s the full list of non-Main Stage venues.
4) …HONESTLY, SO MUCH MORE
Putting all the artistic programming available at Ness aside for a moment, there are still tons of ways to occupy your sunny, lazy days at Ness. Grab some friends and a Frisbee and head Downtown. Go for a hike along one of the 20km of forested trails surrounding the Festival site or just take in the natural beauty from the Lookout. Hang up your hammock and pull out your guitar for a lazy afternoon jam session. Join one of the daily tours at the Forest Garden, a ¼ acre organic, cold-climate permaculture garden. Take the shuttle to the Nesslin Lake Campground (admission $2) and go jump in the lake, or just soak up the sun.
Of course, like any good Festival, Ness also has lots to offer in the way of vendors. The Artisan Market is chock-full of handmade arts and crafts from clothing to furniture, from jewellery to original art, The Village is packed with organizations promoting sustainable living and social justice, and the Food Court is teeming with festival food from international fare to a basket of fries.
5) IT’S A COMMUNITY
Ness is a bit like a massive family reunion, except that most of the family members are complete strangers, at least at the beginning of the Festival. Over the four days of the Festival, over 4,000 people come together and create a sprawling, diverse community of people. The strong sense of connectedness and the laid-back, inclusive vibe is one of the most-commented-on elements of the Festival… it’s what makes Ness Ness. Whoever you are, however your freak-flag flies, you’ll find a welcoming, and diverse community of people greeting you with cries of “HappyNess!” Make friends, learn new recipes or the chords to a song, and have wild and inspiring conversations with folks you may otherwise never have met!
“From the moment people enter the site, they become the friendliest, most genuine versions of themselves. You can wear, say, and do whatever you want and only be met with appreciation and respect. You can truly be yourself at Ness.” – Ness attendee
6) BONUS TIP!
It can be hard to go back to “real life” and reintegrate into society after the festival. Things like having to wear shoes again can be a real adjustment. Since you really have to experience Ness to understand its magic and allure, all those poor sods that stayed behind won’t be able to understand the incredible experience you’ve just had. Go easy on them… next year, you can be the Ness pro showing them around the festival site.