Harbourfest Organizers Have Their Fingers Crossed

Heather MacMurphy Harbourfest 2020

Heather MacMurphy looks across the near-deserted Kenora harbour front at the picturesque Lake Of The Woods and envisions a time when 13,000 plus spectators will congregate in this area to celebrate the city’s Harbourfest 2020.

For the past 29 years, this annual three-day event, spanning the August long-weekend, has traditionally appeared on the calendar as the area’s number 1 cultural event.

But as the COVID-19 virus takes its toll on scheduled crowd gatherings, the Harbourfest chairperson can only hope that by the July 31st– August 2nd time slot, her eight-person committee will be given a green light to execute their festival.

“We are moving forward like the event is happening for the August 1st long weekend, as an organization, we have made this decision,” noted MacMurphy, who serves as a bookkeeper in the winter and spring and operates a tour boat operation with her husband during the summer months. “Everyone is on the edge of their seats asking are we going to cancel? My answer is we are not going to cancel until our municipality says we cannot use the venue. We will let the powers that be pull the plug.”

The Wild 2019
The Wild! 2019

Daily free activities include a big street festival, a host of family activities, kiddy’s events (including a concert by Fred Penner), an antique car show, wooden boat rides on the lake and a festival-closing fireworks display. Econoline Crush and Finger Eleven are set to perform Friday, July 31st, The Wild! and One Bad Son will take the stage Saturday, August 1st and Darby Mills and Toque will close out Harbourfest on Sunday, August 2nd. Ticket costs for the nightly concerts are $52.20 (limited VIP tickets $87.00) and $261.00 for a complete weekend pass.

Darby Mills Project
Darby Mills Project

Harbourfest was originally established purely as a summer celebration for local residents but has grown in stature over the past 29 years with tourists coming from the U.S, Europe and Asia, attracting crowds in excess of 15-16,000 to this scenic Northern Ontario location. “Obviously with all the travel restrictions in place, we don’t expect these visitors this year but we traditionally do well with visitors from Manitoba,” noted MacMurphy, who has been actively involved with the festival for the past 15 years.

A non-profit organization that relies on corporate donations and even pays the city for event permits, Harbourfest continues to thrive while other festivals (Thunder Bay Blues Festival) have folded. A factor. MacMurphy says it’s based on the compact nature of their event. “I think some festivals just get too big, they end up operating like corporations,” MacMurphy noted. “By keeping our event non-profit, we have a lot more financial control over Harbourfest.”

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