By Keith Sharp
Call it good fortune meeting opportunity. When Northern Ontario agent/promoter Rob Violette was booking The Headpins and Toronto on an Ontario tour in 1998, he learned that the town of Mattawa was staging a one-day festival honouring its Voyageur history and had booked Trooper to perform that night.
So he suggested that the event organizers roll his two bands into the lineup to create a three-band festival and the resulting crowd, numbering 5,000 patrons encouraged event organizers to continue the practice of booking major recording bands.
Twenty years later, Violette is still in charge of booking talent for Mattawa Voyageur Days (named after voyageur Samuel De Champlain) which has now grown to a three-day festival, kicking off this year on Friday July 27th. “We have averaged sales of about 7,000 weekend wristbands during our peak of popularity which is not bad for a location with a population of only 2,100 residents,” boasts Violette.
Understanding that he doesn’t have huge budgets to lure big-ticket bands, Violette has been successful in attracting top domestic artists to the festival and now runs a program that features a Country night on Friday, a Rock Night on Saturday and (as of last year), a Tribute Night on Sunday.
This year’s Friday Country Night is headlined by CCMA winners The James Barker Band supported by Eric Etheridge and Andrew Hyatt. Saturday July 29th features Finger Eleven, The Box, Wide Mouth Mason and The View winner Logan Statts while Sunday’s July 30th Tribute lineup stars Shania Live, Carl Dixon Sings The Guess Who and AC/DC Great Scott Tribute. All performances are staged at the venue’s Explorer’s Point location.
Violette agrees that the festival’s majestic location is an on-going drawing card for the influx of festival participants. “You have the Mattawa River meeting The Ottawa River with the Laurentian Mountains as a backdrop,” Violette enthused. “We have people commute on their boats and watch the entertainment from their craft. We usually sell out our wristbands by the end of May.
Long time organizer Jacques Begin has stepped down after serving 20 years on the board of directors but an active three-person group, including original committee members, Lucie and Lynn, are keeping the festival current. “It’s a real family affair, lots of events for everyone, a major canoe race down the Mattawa River and the cost is just $50 for a three-day pass (children under 10 free), it’s a really cost-friendly event”.
For further information on the event schedule please link to https://www.voyageurdays.com.