Bluewater Bridge No Barrier to The Bluewater BorderFest

By Keith Sharp

The Bluewater Bridge spanning between Sarnia, Ontario and Port Huron, Michigan, as well as the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor with Detroit, represents the lifeblood of commerce to this South Western Ontario outpost. So when the COVID pandemic practically closed off access between the two cities, any major social events planned for Sarnia in 2020 and 2021 were seriously jeopardized.

It was a particularly problematic situation for Mark Perrin, the cities’ Executive Director Of Tourism for Sarnia/Lambton, who had worked with his volunteer board of directors to resurrect the Bluewater BorderFest in 2019. This festival had been filling a void left by the established Bay Festival, which had gone on hiatus for the past five years.

“Bayfest used to be one of Canada’s biggest festivals. It attracted big names like Kiss, Aerosmith and Keith Urban, so it had felt great to be part of something which brought tourism back into the area,” Perrin noted. “We heavily count on U.S. traffic coming across the border to our three-day festival, so we had to make some serious adjustments in 2020 and 2021, but we were one of the few festivals that kept on going through that COVID period (through strict masking and a drive-in concept), and we got back on schedule for 2022.”

Justin Moore, Tim Hicks, MacKenzie Porter, and Johnny Rivex Thursday, June 21, Bluewater Borderfest 2023

This year’s Bluewater BorderFest is a three-day festival and is set to go June 22-24 in Centennial Park on Sarnia’s waterfront. The BorderFest features a Country Night Thursday, June 22, the festival’s first since 2019, with U.S. star Justin Moore headlining and supported by St Catherines’ native Tim Hicks, Medicine Hat’s McKenzie Porter and hosted by local deejay Johnny Rivex.

City and Colour, The Sheepdogs, The Blue Stones, and The Down River Band – Friday, June 23, Bluewater Borderfest 2023

On Friday, June 23, is ‘Rock Night’ with City And Colour’s Dallas Green celebrating the release of his new album `Otherness’ along with Saskatoon’s Sheepdogs, Windsor Ontario’s Blue Stones and Sarnia’s own Down River Band, while another ‘Rock Night’ Saturday, June 24 closing night features former American Idol contestant Daughtry supported by North Delta B.C’s THEORY Of A Deadman, who also have a new album ready to drop titled `Dinosaur,’ Michigan’s Pop+Evil plus another local band, The Badmen Association filling out the bill.

Daughtry, Theory, Pop+Evil
Daughtry, Theory, Pop+Evil, and Bad Men Association Saturday, June 24, Bluewater Borderfest 2023

“We like to present a lineup that features at least one U.S headliner, one major Canadian name plus some local talent, so we are bouncing back from the COVID years,” allowed Perrin in explaining the festival’s booking policy.

He notes that Sarnia’s geographical position has been a huge obstacle when faced with competition from the Detroit/London/Toronto triangle playing a factor in where bands decide to play. “Their radius clauses play a factor in everything you do. Sarnia is more of a medium ground, so it can be challenging  when most acts visit London if they are in this area.”

With a dedicated volunteer staff organizing a non-profit event for local charities, Bluewater BorderFest features a number of ticket options; single-day tickets are $89.99( plus fees), general admission and VIP tickets go for $112.99 (plus fees), two-day general tickets go for 159.99 (plus fees) VIP tickets are $199.99 (plus fees) and three-day tickets are $219.99 (plus fees) for general admission and $289.99 (plus fees) for VIP tickets.

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