Festival of Friends returning to Gage Park

After six years in the wilderness (or the Ancaster Fairgrounds, in this case), the Festival of Friends is returning to its original home at Gage Park in the east end.
The Festival of Friends is coming back to Gage Park for 2017, organizers announced Tuesday. (Festival of Friends/Twitter)

After six years in the wilderness (or the Ancaster Fairgrounds, in this case), the Festival of Friends is returning to its original home at Gage Park in the east end.

We are happy to be back.- Festival of Friends statement

The festival's organizers made the announcement Tuesday afternoon.

"In 2011, the Festival of Friends was forced to move to Ancaster for a myriad of reasons – including unresponsive leadership at city hall, as well as issues of access in Gage Park," organizers said in a statement.

"In the past few months, changes at city hall have made it possible for the Festival of Friends to negotiate solutions to many of the concerns that necessitated our exit.

"The 2017 Festival of Friends will be held in Gage Park. We are happy to be back."

The Festival of Friends has been a fixture of Hamilton's summer festival scene since its inception in 1976.

Through the years, it has hosted acts like Bruce Cockburn, City and Colour, Don McLean, Lights, Vince Neil, Long John Baldry, and dozens more.

The festival moved from Gage Park's iconic band shell to the sprawling Ancaster fairgrounds in 2011 — a move many criticized.

At the time, organizers and then-city councillor Bernie Morelli said that the issue was that the festival had "outgrown" the park.

However, many festival-goers often lamented the out-of-the way nature or the new venue, saying it didn't feel like the festival was staying true to its roots. Almost 1,700 signed an online petition to bring the festival back to Gage Park last year.

Festival general manager Loren Lieberman told CBC News that while the organization enjoyed its six years in Ancaster and had a great working relationship with Coun. Lloyd Ferguson, Ancaster was "never where the festival was supposed to be."

"It's going to thrive in Gage Park again," Lieberman said, adding that the area around Gage Park is experiencing a resurgence that just wasn't there yet when the festival left.

Certain issues are still being worked out with city hall, he said, when it comes to parking and use of the park. However, ward 2 and 3 councillors Jason Farr and Matthew Green made a real push to work towards getting it back in Gage, he said.

"It's a very different city hall."

About the Author

Adam Carter

Reporter, CBC Hamilton

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Hamilton home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music in dank bars. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

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