By Keith Sharp
Executing a job as a quality control worker at canneries located around Niagara On The Lake, Ontario, region Jean-Paul Gauthier, was continually impressed by the beautiful orchards set up to provide suppliers with local product. But sadly, the majority of those canneries have now closed, the trees have been torn up and Gauthier is left to fume at the idea of product now being imported instead of supplied by local farmers.
“It’s ludicrous that we are shipping in things like canned peaches when we have farmers who are quite capable of growing a peach on a tree,” noted the Hamilton area resident.
As a music entrepreneur who created the Hamilton Music Awards, Gauthier had this idea of staging a music festival that also promoted local farmers and artisans thus resulting in the sixth annual Harvest Picnic, located at scenic Christie Lake near Dundas which will be staged Friday August 26th to Sunday August 28th.
Combining local talent like Tomi Swick, Lori Yates, Mike Trebilcock and the Redhill Valleys with top name performers like Johnny Reid, Ryan Adams, Jann Arden, The Cowboy Junkies, the Jim Cuddy Band and Alan Doyle & The Beautiful Gypsies, the Harvest Festival was initially supported by top producer/artist Daniel Lanois who provided an early credibility factor for the event and served as the festival’s initial music ambassador.
“This festival reflects my personal interest to do something to benefit green space and to be resourceful to promote the local environment,” Gauthier explained. “I wanted to promote local produce as well as local talent, celebrate everything that is local. It’s always good to have a cause and this is very much a lifestyle sort of event.”
Ironically, when the Christie Lake location was suggested by the local conservation authority as a possible event location, Gauthier was very familiar with the environment. “Christie Lake was where I used to go trout fishing as a kid; it’s where I used to ride my bike. How strange is it that the place I always used to frequent as a kid would turn out to be the ideal location for this festival?”
Gauthier called his event, The Harvest Picnic in homage to those early Police Picnics staged in the GTA during the early 1980’s as he liked the idea of a major band staging `a picnic’ rather than just a music concert.
“Some of our younger generation have possibly never even attended a picnic,” mused Gauthier. “I just like the old fashioned concept of getting people outdoors, to sit on the grass, enjoy a picnic and work some music into the mix.
Of course the music has to fit the environment but Gauthier is pleased that his ensemble of mainly singer-songwriters reflects the ambience of the event. “Yes we have a few big names to attract an audience but we’ve always been supportive of local musicians and it’s great to inject new talent into the mix. Ultimately we are looking for craftsmanship from both the musicians and artisans who participate in this event.
[styled_box title=”Lori Yates with Hey Stella – Sweetheart of The Valley” color=”black”][/styled_box]
Aware the high profile, big ticket events are starting to dominate the festival scene, Gauthier is adamant that his festival maintain its low-key, family-oriented appeal. “I think the people who attend our event appreciate being treated respectfully. It’s not about how many people you can pack into a field or whether you can get away with charging them 10 bucks for a bottle of water. At our event, the water is free!
Ticket prices to attend the Harvest Festival is $59.50 for the Friday, $99.50 for Saturday and $89.50 for Sunday with a three-day festival pass costing $209. Festival highlights this year include a solo acoustic performance by multiple Grammy-nominated artist Ryan Adams on the Friday, a great Saturday lineup featuring the likes of Jann Arden, The Jim Cuddy Band, Alan Doyle, The Cowboy Junkies, Rheostatics and Joel Plaskett Emergency and a star-studded Sunday program featuring CCMA and Juno Award winning artist Johnny Reid, top Country Music duo Autumn Hill and appearances by both Ian and Sylvia Tyson (but not necessarily together).
Having grown up in a musical environment, washing ash trays and cooking chicken wings at his parent’s succession of nightclubs, discos and
neighbourhood bars in the Hamilton area, Gauthier observed people having a good time and wanted to be a part of that entertainment scene.
Although he has also generated a livelihood as a chemist and a school teacher, Gauthier’s passion for promoting the Hamilton music scene has prompted him to not only work as the artistic director for the Harvest Picnic but also as the creator of the Hamilton Music Awards, initially launched in 1995.
I had people laughing at me when I suggested we create a Hamilton Music Awards concept,” admitted Gauthier. “Stupid music promoter, get outta here; that’s what they initially said to me, but look what’s happening now. The Arkells, Road Hammers, Monster Truck, Walk Off The Earth, no one is laughing at me now. To see how musical talent in Hamilton is flourishing right now is quite amazing.”