Northern Ontario music promoters looking forward to fall bookings

Live music has returned to the United States and other countries around the world. In northern Ontarian, concert halls and outside festivals are looking ahead to the fall, and starting to book acts.

'We're the hardest hit sector — the first to close and will probably be the last to re-open'

Some northerners will have to wait for the fall before they can attend a music festival or concert in person. (Shutterstock)

For more than a year now, the only news about festivals and concerts was to announce they were cancelled.

And this summer, big shows like Northern Lights Festival Boréal in Sudbury and the Manitoulin Country Fest will be shelved for a second straight year.

Others like Rock on the River in Timmins and the River and Sky festival in West Nipissing are still hoping to hit the stage this summer.

And there are other promoters who are waiting for the fall.

The Younge Street Festival in Kagawong on Manitoulin Island is planning to have live music on Labour Day weekend, and North Bay's Capitol Centre is selling tickets for shows this fall and beyond.

Younge Street Festival founder Sandy Hurcomb said organizers were hoping to hold the first-ever festival on the May long weekend, but the province's stay-at-home order dashed those ideas.

"So when they pulled the plug, we knew that September was our target date," she said. "And we are good to go, as far as I'm concerned, with the way things are opening up. We're tickled pink and we're looking forward to live music and vendors."

The festival will feature four days of performances from the Carver Kings, daily live outdoor concerts, food vendors, local artisans, and axe throwing.

Over in North Bay, Capitol Centre interim executive director Dan Misturada said he's thrilled to see some progress moving forward with Ontario's reopening plan.

"We were the hardest hit sector — the first to close and will probably be the last to reopen," he said.

"So to finally have a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel is amazing. And we're looking forward to welcoming artists and audiences back."

'Automatic' socially distant bubbles

The centre had a full season scheduled, and has since pushed those dates back.

"We have probably about two dozen performances that we're holding on to and we're just waiting for details so that we can announce them," Misturada said.

"It really has to do with capacity limits and we're looking forward to sharing those with audiences when the time comes."

During their downtime, Misturada said organizers have done a lot of work around sanitation and disinfection.

"But we've also adjusted our ticketing system so that it automatically social-distances is your bubble. So when you select seats, you're automatically blocked off six feet away from other people," he said.

"We've done a lot in terms of our training with our volunteers and our staff so that we're able to welcome back audiences safely."

Our fingers are crossed and so are our toes.— Younge Street Festival founder Sandy Hurcomb

Hurcomb said the festival in Kagawong will be largely outdoors.

"We're planning on allowing 50 people on the property at a time. That's the minimum we feel that it's going to be in September."

But that could change if the province loosens restrictions even more.

Both Hurcomb and Misturada said they're waiting for the green light.

"Our fingers are crossed and so are our toes," Hurcomb said.

"We've put so much time and effort. We've had such a huge help with organizing this event through people who have just volunteered in the community. [And they] are just as desperate as we are to have some sort of gathering and outdoor entertainment."

With files from Erik White and Peter Williams


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