New Brunswick

Area 506 could go forward this summer — if all goes well

Organizers of the annual Area 506 music festival in Saint John are hoping the festival can happen live in some form this summer.

The Saint John music festival was held virtually over the long weekend in August last summer

Jamie Comeau & the Crooked Teeth recorded a 15 minute set under the city of Saint John sign for last year's virtual festival. (Submitted by Ray Gracewood)

The show must go on.

At least, that's what organizers of The Area 506 Festival in Saint John are hoping.

"If there's one place that could pull off something cool like that, it's probably New Brunswick this summer," said Ray Gracewood, founder of the New Brunswick music festival.

Gracewood is hopeful a festival of some kind will take place over the long weekend in August. But he's not ready to make any official announcement just yet.

"We sort of have to roll with the punches," he said.

Last year, Area 506 partnered with the province for virtual New Brunswick Day celebrations, which Gracewood described as a "big win."

"There's just something about letting music get into your bones," he said. "It's just infectious."

He said the festival's committee has already been thinking a lot about how the festival will roll out this summer.

"We look at ourselves as a group of problem solvers and we like to get challenged," he said. 

Hosting a smaller event 

Area 506 will likely have to be a smaller event, to mitigate any risk.

That means, the festival won't be able to host up to 10,000 people, like it has in previous years.

"It's reimagining of what the outdoor live music plan looks like," he said.

Organizers of Area 506 admit crowds like this won't be happening anytime soon. (Area 506 Facebook page)

For starters, it would have to consist of a strong COVID-19 operational plan and organizers would have to work closely with Public Health officials — while also improving the audience experience.

"It's possible if you're creative and well-prepared."

He said the pandemic has created a unique challenge for everyone, including festival organizers.

'It's strange times for everybody.'

In Fredericton, the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival has announced John Hiatt and Jerry Douglas are appearing at this year's festival in September. 

Meanwhile, on Prince Edward Island, the Cavendish Beach Music Festival has been cancelled for a second year because of the pandemic.

"Obviously it's strange times for everybody," he said. " … the live event world isn't any different."


Elizabeth Fraser


Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip?

With files from Information Morning Saint John


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