By Keith Sharp
Think of the province of Prince Edward Island and you automatically envision views of amazing ocean scenery, lush golf courses, the fabled homestead of Anne of Green Gables, the birthplace of Confederation and the recently constructed Confederation Bridge. But for the past 10 years, you can also add amazing Country Music concert venue to that itinerary.
Any tourism brochure published by the government of Prince Edward Island is not complete without touting Cavendish Beach Country Music Festival – a true jewel of a location on the province’s North Shore.
With the announcement that Bell Canada has signed a three-year corporate sponsorship deal, the festival prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary staged this year July 6th to July 8th with a fourth day added Monday July 9th for a headline performance by Shawn Mendes, event organizer, Jeff Squires can only smile as he boasts the continuing legacy of his event.
With the likes of Luke Bryan, Chris Young, Brett Eldridge and domestic stars like Dallas Smith, The Road Hammers, Meghan Patrick and Terri Clark set to appear this year, Squires admits that no one could imagine he would ever be celebrating the 10th anniversary of this festival.
“When we conceived the idea for the festival in 2008 we really had no idea it would last so long,” marvelled the president of Whitecap Entertainment. “We knew that PEI was a great tourist attraction, it has incredible scenery, great golf courses, national parks and family entertainment parks, so why not a Country Music Festival.”
Having the foresight to see that Cavendish Beach provided a natural site for such an endeavour, Squires and friends set about developing the site as a major concert venue. “It wasn’t easy at first, we had to convince major artists to play here, but from day one we made the venue the story,” Squires explained. “Once people come here, they are won over by the site’s natural beauty. Artists spread the word that this is a must-play venue and tourists who come to the festival for the first time are re-booking their cottages and camp sites for next year before they even know who is playing.”
Understanding that Atlantic Canada has a history of supporting Country Music (Stompin Tom Connors grew up in PEI and Anne Murray lived just across the Confederation Bridge in Springhill Nova Scotia), Squires knew that his festival would always focus on country music but they have broken with that policy with Rod Steward appearing at their 2016 festival and Shawn Mendes set to appear at this year’ event. “That’s not to say we will always be exclusively country but for the most part, this region has an affinity for supporting this type of music.”
Aside from attracting major U.S talent, Squires is fully aware of the recent high profile development of Canadian artists like Dallas Smith, The Road Hammers, Meghan Patrick and Lindsay El and delights in booking domestic talent at his festival.
“We are proud to support Canadian talent,” boasts Squires who doubles as President of PEI Brewing Company. “The mainstay of our festival has been booking Canadian artists and we are also supportive of local talent. It’s great to see them earning recognition.”
Squires feels his festival is acting as a catalyst for a stimulation in the growth of a music scene and he is further helping this development by staging additional concerts at his PEI Brewing Company which is located on a 27,000-square foot location near the capital of Charlottetown.
This year, Cavendish launches with Chase Rice, The Road Hammers and Meghan Patrick preceding headliner Brett Eldridge. Dallas Smith, Terri Clark, and Lindsay Ell will set the stage Saturday for Chris Young and Granger Smith, The James Barker Band and Petric will support Sunday’s headliner Luke Brown.
Added to the festival is a special Monday night appearance by Toronto’s Shawn Mendes supported by appearances by local talent, Lauv, Brooms, Cashmere Cats and Alec Benjamin. For ticket information and official lineups please link to www.cavendishbeachmusic.com