Hamilton Ontario’s TD Festival of Friends concert event, set to run August 8-10 scheduled in amongst other major festivals like Mark Higgins’ recently staged Big Fest in Kitchener and Brad Jones’ upcoming Rock the Park in London Ontario July 23rd-26th, yet competing against big name artists like Aerosmith, Bryan Adams and Burton Cummings isn’t the festival’s biggest problem.
“Our only big competition is the weather,” noted Festival of Friends organizer Loren Lieberman. “All those other festivals are ticketed events. If you’ve paid $100 for the concert, and it’s a non-refundable ticket, the chances are you will go to the show regardless of the conditions. But with a free festival like ours, if the weather is shitty, you have no incentive to attend.”
Established in 1976 and now located at the Ancaster Fairgrounds for the past four years, Festival Of Friends is more of a county fair event than a music concert with lots of activities organized for children and adults alike including a Midway, a special childrens’ pavilion and lots of arts and crafts, food vendors and a beer garden.
“Obviously the music is a main draw but even if you don’t particularly like the music, there’s lots of activities at the Festival of Friends to keep you occupied,” noted Lieberman who has set up the three nightly schedules with a variety of popular and country music.
Friday night’s headline acts on the main stage feature Ill Scarlett and Down With Webster, Saturday has Danko Jones and Finger Eleven setting the stage for the legendary Ronnie Hawkins while the all Country Music Sunday lineup features Tommy Cash (Johnny’s brother), Pam Tillis and Doc Walker.
The festival also features a number of up and coming acts like Burlington’s Beautiful Nothing and Halifax rockers; the Glory Hounds along with Slouch, Nicole Arbour and Jace Martin. “We get thousands of applications each year to play one of our three stages,” (there are two smaller side stages) noted Lieberman. “It’s our pleasure to feature aspiring bands – especially those that play the main stage. Ours is a resume kind of show for young talent, we are an important stepping stone in their development.”
Because the Festival of Friends is a free show, (chief sponsor is the TD Bank) it’s a challenge funding key artists and according to Lieberman, the more funds they raise from their corporate donors, the better quality of artists he can book for the festival. “At one point, our lineups were entirely Canadian which meant that we would be featuring the same 35 bands all the time,” explained Lieberman. “It started to get a little boring so we’ve been trying to give new bands opportunities and bring in major acts that will pull a crowd.”
As Lieberman is fully aware, much of the event’s success depends on the weather so he can only hope the meteorological department is kind to the festival August 8 great last year and we have two indoor stages in case it does rain, but no one wants to go indoors so we can only hope for the best.