Fredericton's Harvest music festival thrives despite rain
Ticket sales increased by 5% and concession sales set a record
Organizers of the Harvest Jazz and Blues festival in Fredericton say sales weren't hurt by rainy weather that plagued much of the six-day event.
Rain and lightning forced cancellation of a free show on Wednesday night in one of the festival's large tents. The schedule on Thursday and Friday was also hampered by rainy weather.
But despite the poor weather, Brent Staeben, the festival's music director, says ticket sales were up by about 5 per cent.
"Certainly our concessions sales set records this year — t-shirt sales, things of that nature," said Staeben.
"We know from speaking with people in the hotel industry that bookings and tourism were up."
The music director said the rainy weather may have kept some local festivalgoers away.
"What we saw was, maybe, we didn't have as many local people come out because of the weather, but we've grown the tourism audience and maybe those people were here anyway and they were coming out rain or shine," Staeben said.
"In the end we had a record-setting festival, which is quite amazing when you think about the weather."
This was the 22nd annual edition of the festival, which brings in acts from throughout North America.
Over the years it has had to deal with different challenges, including the travel chaos resulting from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, and the remnants of various hurricanes and tropical storms.
In preparation for this year's event, Harvest organizers spent a lot of time dealing with emergency planning in light of incidents at festivals elsewhere in recent years.
For example, a stage collapsed when a storm hit the Ottawa Bluesfest in July 2011. And the following month in Belgium, five people were killed when a violent storm that produced hail hit an outdoor music festival near Hasselt.
Staeben said those preparations paid off Wednesday when an intense rain and lighting storm hit Fredericton just as the doors were to open for a free concert.
"I won't say it wasn't stressful and I won't say we didn't have a lot of things to work out that Wednesday night when the rain and lightning hit, but we were prepared for the right discussions," said Staeben.
That free concert was cancelled and those who had showed up to attend were given free admission to a different show.
"Tough decision, but in the end it all worked out very, very well," said Staeben.