Saskatchewan Jazz Festival plans return with mix of live, streamed performances in August

The Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival will focus on highlighting Canadian and local talent when it returns with live performances from Aug. 7-15.

The festival will run in Saskatoon from Aug. 7-15

Michael Franti performs with Spearhead at the 2017 Saskatchewan Jazz Festival. Organizers say the festival will offer both live and virtual experiences this August. (Shauna Powers/CBC)

It will be a month later than planned — but the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival will return to Saskatoon with live performances in August.

Organizers announced on Thursday that the annual music festival will run this year from Aug. 7-15 — almost a month later than the previously planned start date of July 9 — and will offer both live and virtual experiences.

One fan who attends the jazz festival every year says being able to go back brings her joy.

"It just makes me feel like we're finally getting out of our COVID prison and [we] will experience great joy again of freedom, play, music, dancing and fun," said Colleen Shinkewski, who has attended the festival every year since 1993.

Shinkewski, who is retired now, says it's a gathering event for her and her family. She takes her grandchildren and says "they dance up a storm."

The festival hopes to give people around the province a chance to join in with a COVID-safe safe live and accessible experience this year, with plans to live stream as many performances as possible from the Bessborough Gardens mainstage, according to organizers.

The festival — now in its 34th year — will also include performances at downtown Saskatoon sidewalk stages, along with activities from yoga to food experiences, a news release Thursday said.

More details on the festival's lineup are expected in July.

Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the jazz festival was initially postponed and then significantly pared down from its initial lineup. There were four live concerts performed last August at Saskatoon's Bessborough Gardens, as well as several virtual concerts.

"Today's announcement comes following the sacrifices and collective efforts of our community and to our heroes working on the front lines," jazz festival artistic director Kevin Tobin said in Thursday's press release. 

Currently, up to 150 people are allowed at outdoor gatherings in Saskatchewan. The province is expected to begin Step 2 of its reopening plan on June 20, which will allow indoor venues to also welcome up to 150 people. Stage 3 of the reopening plan would remove most other restrictions, but it's not yet clear when that stage will begin.

One Saskatchewan singer/songwriter is excited to attend the jazz festival this year, and hopes to be able to perform there.

"I think a lot of artists miss their livelihood,"  said Kayleigh Skomorowski.

"I just really miss that opportunity to gather around something that we love and just feel connected in that way that we haven't been able to."

Having the jazz festival come back offers her hope. 

"I think it's kind of the first signal of our former lives and the things that we love returning."