Calgary

ReggaeFest offers free passes after community helps make 2016 festival possible

After a "horrible" showing in 2015, Calgary's annual celebration of Reggae is back for its 13th year, and it's thanking the community for making that possible by slashing ticket prices and offering free passes.

Performers were saying, 'We want to come. We will take a pay cut'

Aktivate kicks off ReggaeFest Thursday at noon at the Olympic Plaza with a free concert. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

After a "horrible" showing in 2015, Calgary's annual celebration of Reggae is back for its 13th year, and it's thanking the community for making that possible by slashing ticket prices and offering free passes.

Last year's uncooperative weather dealt a major blow to the festival's finances and had organizers questioning the future of ReggaeFest.

"In November, we thought there's no way. Last year was just a horrible year with the weather and everything. Total loss," said producer Leo Cripps.

But when word got around that the 2016 festival was in jeopardy of being cancelled, artists and other festival organizers rallied to their aid.

"Before you knew it, people were donating funds to us. Performers were actually saying, 'We want to come. We will take a pay cut,'" Cripps said.

"Amazingly, it just brightened up everything."

'Bare bones' ticket prices

Reggaefest will once again bring Reggae tones from across Canada, Colombia, Ghana, the U.S. and Jamaica to Shaw Millennium Park Friday and Saturday, and it's all thanks to those group efforts.

"In order to give back to our community, we've cut our prices back to basically as bare bones as possible to cover the cost of the event this year," Cripps said.

Saturday ticket prices have dropped by $15 from last year, to $25 in advance or $35 at the gate, while new weekend passes are available for $30 in advance.

Last year the festival did not offer a weekend pass, but people who bought Saturday tickets for $40 were offered free admission Friday. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Under the banner of 'Uniting Cultures through Reggae Music,' the annual festival is also offering complimentary passes to new Calgary families and some financially challenged families who may want to join in the celebration.

As many as 50 families will be given free admission to the paid event.

"Initially, we were discussing tickets to just refugee families, to try to help integrate them into the fabric of our city's mosaic, but we understand we're also in a tough economy, and still have many new families moving to our city," said Cripps.

"What better way to help out and show Calgary's spirit of giving than to invite them to come and enjoy some of the city's festivities."

With files from Atiba Nelson

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