Saskatchewan

Popular Sask. events going ahead after COVID-19 restrictions lifted

With COVID-19 restrictions lifted in the province, many popular events and festivals are going ahead with caution this August.

Regina Folk Festival: Summer Satellites, Queen City Ex and SaskTel Jazz Festival among events

The 2018 Queen City Ex featured the return of The Zipper. (CBC News)

With COVID-19 restrictions lifted in the province, many popular events and festivals are going ahead with caution this August.

Events like the Regina Folk Festival, the Queen City Ex and the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival were mostly cancelled last year, but are making a safe return this summer.

Amber Goodwyn is the artistic director for the Regina Folk Festival: Summer Satellites.

She said due to too many changing restrictions, the annual festival at Victoria Park was cancelled earlier this year. However, organizers were able to partner with the Conexus Art Centre to offer a weekend of music on the Brandt Community Stage.

"We're trying to keep the concerts fairly small just to sort of reduce any COVID-related risks as much as possible," Goodwyn said.

There will be five concerts over the course of three days, from Aug. 6 to 8.

Goodwyn said guests are invited to come shortly before the concert and leave right after, which is different from a traditional festival where people could come and go as they please all day.

"While these shows are different, they are just as musically fantastic as our usual programming," Goodwyn said. "The idea of being able to gather safely and to experience live music, that's really just the heart of what is so exciting about this summer."

The Regina Folk Festival is usually held in Victoria Park. This year will look a little different. (Chris Graham/Regina Folk Festival)

She said staff and volunteers will be required to wear masks while on site. She said there is a clear health and safety plan available on the Regina Folk Festival website for guests who are concerned with large gatherings.

A unique thing about this year's festival is that all of the performers are from Saskatchewan. The performers of the shows include vbnd, Tesher, Marissa Well and MELODNA.

One of the headliners this year is Eekwol, an Indigenous hip-hop artist based in Saskatoon.

Eekwol, real name Lindsay Knight, said she is excited to perform in-person again after doing most of her shows virtually since Feb. 2020.

"The feeling of performing in front of a webcam as opposed to a live audience is so different," Knight said. "It takes a while to get that energy up so that you can give this good performance online."

She said she has been creating new material during the pandemic and has enough for a new album, which she hopes to release this winter. Knight said she is excited to perform some of her new songs at the Regina Folk Festival on Aug. 7.

"I'm actually really nervous because it's been so long," she said. "This has been the longest in 20 years that I haven't performed, so yeah, nervous but really excited."

Queen City Ex

Another summer staple going ahead this year is the Queen City Ex in Regina.

Tim Reid, the president and CEO of REAL, said his team has always been planning as if the 2021 Queen City Ex would be going forward.

"Lots has changed with the Queen City Ex this year," he said.

Reid said the biggest change is the dates and length of the event. Traditionally, he said, the Queen City Ex is held in the first week of Aug. or the last week of Jul.

This year the fair will be eight days in total, starting on Aug. 20 until Aug. 22, pausing the event for two days, then picking back from Aug. 25 to 29.

Reid said the two days in the middle of the week are to give staff appropriate time to do necessary cleaning and sanitizing of rides and stalls, as well as reorganize the layout of the fair if needed.

The Queen City Ex will be eight days in total, starting on Aug. 20 until Aug. 22, pausing the event for two days, then picking back from Aug. 25 to 29. (Beverley Paul)

He said last year was the first time the Queen City Ex has been cancelled since the organization began in 1884.

"I think for us, opening up with the launch of the Queen City Exhibition and going back to that event really is symbolic of the health of our business and returning to regular operations," he said. "When you think about the fact that the Queen City Ex has survived pandemics in the past and world wars and depressions, it really is an incredibly resilient event."

"The cancellation of that event last year probably speaks to the magnitude of the challenges we were facing as a community, as a province and as a country."

As for safety precautions taken by REAL to ensure reduced spread of COVID-19, Reid said there will be plexiglass between staff and guests throughout the fair.

"Staff will not be required to wear masks," he said. "We will be doing deep cleaning periodically through the day of the event and then obviously overnight."

Reid said REAL has acquired the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) certification, which he said is "probably the highest standard of cleanliness that exists in our industry".

He said REAL's perspective has always been in alignment with the public health authority when it comes to vaccines. Reid said full vaccination is encouraged but not required to attend the Queen City Ex.

SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival

Another major event that is happening in August is the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival in Saskatoon. It wasn't fully cancelled last year, as it had three nights of live, physically distanced music in August 2020.

This was a big change from the usual 10 days of music held at many different venues in Saskatoon.

Kevin Tobin, the artistic director for the festival, said this year the goal was to hold an event that people are familiar with, while still being scaled down.

He said a traditional jazz festival would feature anywhere from 125 to 135 shows. This year, there will be 50 shows over nine days.

"Exclusively we're featuring Canadian and Saskatchewan artists and we are making the festival certainly accessible by over 95 per cent of the performances being free," he said.

He added that some of the mainstage performances will be streamed free on the festival's Facebook page.

"Bringing the community together and bringing musicians back on stage, helping and supporting the local economy is certainly something that is of value to us," Tobin said.

Wide Mouth Mason & The Sheepdogs, The Washboard Union and Whitehorse are among the performers on tap for the Aug. 7-15 music festival in Saskatoon. (Saskatoon Jazz Festival)

Since the shows take place at multiple venues in Saskatoon, Tobin said the festival helps many businesses and technical workers after the slow business caused by COVID-19.

Some of Saskatchewan's well-known bands, including Wide Mouth Mason and The Sheepdogs, are kicking off the festival on Aug. 7.

The Washboard Union, Whitehorse, Terra Lightfoot and Karli June are among the mainstage performers during the festival.

Tobin said staff and volunteers will be required to wear masks and sanitize regularly. He said they should not be attending the festival if they are feeling unwell and gloves will be available to staff who want an added level of protection.

Tickets and scheduling information can be found on the SaskJazz website.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Francis is a journalist with CBC Saskatchewan. She is from the Kahkewistahaw First Nation in Saskatchewan. Got news tips? Send them to jennifer.francis@cbc.ca Twitter: @_JennFrancis

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