New Brunswick

Sappyfest organizers find an entertaining use for town's biggest building

The organizers of an independent music and arts festival in Sackville are planning on using the town's largest building, the Terra Beata freezer plant in the Sackville Industrial Park, as a giant outdoor theatre screen.

Faced with running a festival during a pandemic, Sackville music and arts festival gets creative

Sappyfest organizers are hoping to use the side of the tallest building in Sackville as a giant screen, as the independent music and arts festival shifts to online presentations and no-contact events as a result of COVID-19. (Submitted by Jeff MacKinnon)

The organizers of Sappyfest are known for being creative. But this year, facing a very different kind of festival due to COVID-19, they've taken that creativity to new heights — literally.

The independent music and arts festival is planning on using the town's largest building - the Terra Beata freezer plant in the Sackville Industrial Park - as a giant, outdoor theatre screen.

The event is planned for August 1st.

Organizer Jeff MacKinnon said Sappyfest was in the early stages of planning when COVID-19 hit, changing everything.

Jeff MacKinnon is on the board of directors of Sappyfest and is the organization's treasurer. He says the festival was in the early planning stages when the pandemic hit, and organizers had to re-think their approach. (Submitted by Jeff MacKinnon)

"So there's a complete shift in the way we're used to doing things. We're used to setting up a tent with a stage and packing it with folks that are standing close to each other and we completely changed the format in the way that we need to present content, present artists in a safe manner." MacKinnon said.

Organizers had to quickly shift to online presentations and no–contact events.

He said the cold storage facility, with its cube shape and white walls, makes the ideal movie screen.

"The main intent is really to document the process, show some of the artists, show some independent films that would have been part of the festival, but do it in an outdoor environment with lots of space and mainly document and record the presentation." he said.

MacKinnon said one of the artists who was supposed to be featured live will instead perform on screen, but the name is being kept under wraps for now.

Jeff MacKinnon says Sappyfest organizers have asked Sackville Town Council for a traffic detour the night of the event, August 1. (Submitted by Jeff MacKinnon)

He said organizers are closely following COVID-19 precautions, including physical distancing, controlling access points, contact tracing and encouraging the use of masks.

MacKinnon made a presentation to Sackville Town Council, asking for a traffic detour on Crescent Street, where the viewing area will be set up. He's expecting an answer at next week's meeting.

"It's an interesting use of a side of a building that we didn't expect at all." said David Ernst, co-owner of Terra Beata Farms. "If it helps the community out and it compliments what we're doing then it works very well." 

Ernst co-owns the Atlantic AutoCold freezer plant with Burnbrae Farms.

Jeff MacKinnon says he has checked out the cold storage facility at dusk to see how it might look on the night of the event. (Submitted by Jeff MacKinnon)

Jeff MacKinnon said, according to his calculations, 500 people could attend, but he's hoping for something more intimate.

"We're not expecting or anticipating or even encouraging that level of attendance. We want this to be kind of a low key event. If people are curious they can come see of course but there will be safety considerations in place." he said.

About the Author

Kate Letterick is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick.

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