New Brunswick

The show must go on: Harvest Jazz and Blues makes the best of pandemic times

Fredericton's Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival is doing the best it can in the face of COVID-19 limitations.

'People are getting innovative with how they present live music now,' says organizer 

Picnic tables set apart for physical distancing provide the seating at this festival venue. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

Fredericton is normally crawling with thousands of people weaving their way through tents packed to capacity this weekend.

There are normally throngs of food trucks with musical acts on every corner. 

The biggest festival east of Montreal is the usual motto that accompanies the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival.  

Then COVID-19 crashed the party. It wiped out any chance of the 30th edition of the annual event from being the biggest and best in its history. 

Organizers have scrambled to put something, anything, together, to keep the festival going this year. 

And something is better than nothing.

"It isn't what it could have been," said Brent Staeben, the festival's programming director. "But it's nice to get a little bit extra economy downtown. " 

Brent Staeben is the programming director for the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

Instead of dozens of musical events sprawled across the downtown, the festival is limited to 10 smaller venues that are spread out.

Picnic tables spaced out in a parking lot create one venue. Limited seating in a hotel bar is another example.  

"People are getting innovative with how they present live music now and that's what we have to do in this crazy time," said Staeben. 

Usually the parking lots behind Fredericton's city hall are packed with tents filled with concert-goers. But it remains just a parking lot this year. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

He said while there's no doubt that businesses will feel the money lost from the smaller crowds, they've worked to arrange a different type of show instead. 

The festival has edited together a concert made up of filmed performances that will be shown at bars and restaurants tonight throughout the downtown.  

"It's three hours, from 7 to 10, a mixture of archival footage and new footage," said Staeben.

It may not be the norm, said Staeben, but it helps ensure a festival next year.

"I think we all need a little live music right now," said Staeben.  

About the Author

Shane Fowler


Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.