Thunder Bay

Wake the Giant music festival organizers say Thunder Bay concert an uplifting, emotional day

The Wake the Giant Music Festival in Thunder Bay, Ont., was an uplifting and, at times, very emotional day, according to one of the event organizers.

Sean Spenrath says Indigenous students performing with July Talk left some 'a little teary-eyed'

An organizer of the 2019 Wake the Giant Music Festival says he and some of his colleagues got "a little teary-eyed" when Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School students took the stage. (Wake The Giant/Facebook)

The Wake the Giant Music Festival in Thunder Bay was an uplifting and, at times, very emotional day, according to one of the event organizers.

The all-day concert on Sept. 14 was in support of the Wake the Giant initiative, which aims to make the northwestern Ontario city a more welcoming place, particularly to Indigenous students coming to the community for school. About 300 senior elementary and high school students from northern First Nations were among the roughly 3,500 who attended, Sean Spenrath told CBC News.

One of the highlights was watching and hearing students at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School on stage with July Talk performing a song, Mourning Keeps Coming Back, which the teens wrote with the popular Canadian band, said Spenrath, who also works as the student success program coordinator at the all-First Nations high school.

It was "so cool," he said. "I'd be lying ... if I didn't say that a few of us didn't get a little teary-eyed for sure."

"To see something that's been kinda in the making [since 2017], to see ... the kids get to perform live with a big Canadian band, I think that's an opportunity and an experience that won't leave their minds for probably the rest of their lives."

Spenrath said the festival received a lot of support from the community, including businesses and vendors donating things such as supplies and food. The overall vibe in the crowd was one of making the students feel welcome, he added.

"It's so cool and unique," he continued. "I think it really reflected on where Thunder Bay wants to be when you heard everyone cheering those kids on."

"I think they had one of the biggest pops of the night from the crowd."

As for whether there will be another Wake the Giant concert, Spenrath said that hasn't been decided yet.

"I think we're going to take a couple weeks ... just to relax for a little bit and think it over and see where we're at from there before we ultimately decide what we want to do."

He said that the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, especially from the students from "up north."

"The kids had an awesome time," Spenrath said. "I don't think that they expected, when we said we're having a music festival, I don't think they expected it to be one of the biggest music festivals in Thunder Bay."

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