Lane Burman with his kids at Hillside. (Photo by J. Burman) Lane Burman with his kids at Hillside. (Photo by J. Burman)

Go to Hillside! is the only way to encourage first timers to go to take in the Guelph music festival. One can only marvel at the community Hillside has built over the past 30 plus years.

Yet it’s not just a community — it feels like family.

My family has been going for over 10 years as vendors, workshop presenters, volunteers and as paying concert goers. Without fail, every year, I moan and groan at the prospect of going to a music festival where I don’t recognize any of the artists, or, at best, one or two. I go anyway, and every single time I leave happy, having discovered new bands, seeing friends I hadn’t seen since last year’s festival and basked in all that is Hillside.

There is more than just music at Hillside. The festival has done something I haven’t  seen at other multi-day events. Through their vast network of volunteers, they are able to provide a different experience — a truly environmental experience. Visitors see volunteers washing reusable plates and cups used by every food vendor, eliminating disposable plates and cups from the waste stream. Hillside provides free water to anyone who brings reusable containers.

“Happy Hillside” is the cry heard everywhere you go. It’s not just said in passing.

You will often see young and old volunteers on garbage duty, schlepping compost and dirty plates about the island. Compost! I have yet to see at any other music venue compost organic waste. Young volunteers, meanwhile, are getting some of their first real work experience that will benefit them for years to come and bond them to Hillside like no other music festival can.

Not only do volunteers get the opportunity to give back to the festival, they get free entry and camping on the island for the weekend. Garbage duties and dishwashing seem like entry-level positions for new Hillside volunteers, but many work the beer taps, direct parking or create solar systems to power a music festival situated in a conservation area. They work together to make it an event like no other.

“Happy Hillside” is the cry heard everywhere you go. It’s not just said in passing — festival-goers honestly mean it. They want you to have an amazing time, to be part of the family and for you to come back again and again. In short, to enjoy the Hillside they helped make.

This year, like every other since their birth, our children will be coming with us (free for under 12 years old). They may not have much interest yet in the music or the vendors, but they have a lot of interest in being a Hillsider. They are the next generation of volunteers and festival-goers. They will help to ensure the legacy of Hillside continues and may, one day, bring their children to start the cycle again.

Happy Hillside!

Lane Burman is a husband, father of two, community rebel rouser, lover of wonderful smelling things and owner of a small local business.


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