An Interview By Keith Sharp
Promoters of major music festivals like Boots And Hearts, Cavendish Beach and Calgary Country Thunder no doubt have their fingers (and other appendages) crossed that the current COVID-19 Virus doesn’t create havoc with their summer schedules. But the air of uncertainty is also plaguing organizers of a series of smaller events.
Big River Country Festival promoter Henry Boer is one such entrepreneurial character who is keeping an eye on developments as he prepares for his first major event July 16-19 at the Happy Green Acres campgrounds at Mallorytown, Ontario.
CEO of the successful 1000 Islands RV Centre In nearby Gananoque for the past 25 years, Boer and his business partner Paul Preston purchased the Happy Green Acres site three years ago and decided the venue was ideal to stage a series of small concerts to keep his regular campers entertained while also attracting new attendees. Over the past couple of years, he has staged a series of small festivals featuring primarily tribute bands playing 50s and 60s rock and country classics as well as a bluegrass festival and an on-going series with local band Ambush. But this year, the concept was to attract more established Country music artists and blend in a number of up-and-coming stars.
To that end, Charlie Major and Lisa Brokop have been booked as headliners supported by newcomers like Kelsi Mayne, Rebecca Rain, Abby Stewart and Jordy Jackson.
“We are trying to establish a country festival with a community spirit,” informed Boer. “We have no intention of competing against Boots And Heats and Havelock with their half a million-dollar budget. We are targeting at entertaining our regular campers, no more than 500 or 800 people, but the beauty of that is we can fit everyone under one large tent so the weather doesn’t become a factor.
Of course, the current virus epidemic could derail his festival but Boer is hopeful the incident curve will flatten out before his scheduled festival. “Based on the success of our 2019 concerts, our initial ticket sales looked promising but things have dropped off a bit recently. We will probably lose our two scheduled June concerts but I am hopeful things will loosen up before mid-July.”
Boer agrees that the lack of advance ticket sales may be a problem for the bigger festivals but the compact nature of his event lessens his financial risk and he does feel that once the worst is over, people will want to get out and socialize.
“It’s kind of like racing a speed boat against the Titanic,” Boer cracked. “We have a lot more flexibility with our site. If July doesn’t pan out, I can always move it to August, I am pretty confident I can retain 80% of my performers and I am almost sure that Charlie Major and Lisa Brokop would still be available.”
For camping and ticket information, please link to https://bigrivercountryfestival.com/