New Brunswick

'Historic weekend' sets attendance record for Fredericton's Harvest Festival

Organizers at Fredericton's Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival are celebrating a record attendance figure this year.

Festival saw up to 100,000 people turn out for 29th season

Organizers attribute festival's success to headliners like Robert Plant, Nathaniel Rateliff, Lucinda Williams and Charlie Musselwhite. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Organizers at Fredericton's Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival are celebrating record attendance this year.

The six-day festival wrapped up its 29th season Sunday night with around 100,000 attendees on the books.

"It was a historic weekend all around," said Brent Staeben, director of the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival.

Staeben attributes the festival's smashing success to music superstars: Nathaniel Rateliff, Lucinda Williams, Charlie Musselwhite and crowd favourite Robert Plant, who performed Friday night.

"It will be a legacy piece for the festival that we can talk about for many, many, many years to come," Staeben said. "Some stories for the grandkids probably.

"Now we have to build on it for next year." 

Visitors travel far and wide

Staeben said ticket revenue was up 20 per cent from last year, bringing in about $1 million. This year, the festival was able to sell about 25,000 tickets and passes.

"We knew going into the summer, really, that our advance sales were massive," he said.

"As the festival started to come together, we could really see the excitement around the acts, and that translated into huge crowds in the venues."

While the festival attracted many Maritimers, it also saw visitors from all over North America, including Minnesota and California.

"I think that was reflective of Plant and Rateliff, and [Jason] Isbell," Staeben said. "And people coming from all over America to see these acts."

Festival 'feels like home'

But it wasn't just the big headliners who felt the energy from last week's crowds. Local musicians like Stephen Lewis were also able to get in on the excitement.

The Fredericton musician and his band, Stephen Lewis and the Big Band of Fun, performed at the Barracks Tent at this year's festival. 

"For me personally it was the best and biggest year yet," he said.

Lewis said he was able to curate the lineup and present new energy and excitement to the venue.

"It just went off like a firework. It was incredible."

Organizers are already getting ready for Harvest's 30th season next year and a number of offers are in for headlining artists.

Staeben hopes next year will bring in even more visitors.

"It feels like home for a lot of people," he said.

About the Author

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

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

With files from Lauren Bird

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