The Return Of Small Festivals Provide Economic Lifeline

Lucknow’s Music In The Fields – Summer 22

By Keith Sharp

As COVID restrictions are lowered sufficiently enough to allow for concert festivals to be re-introduced this year, many smaller communities can once again benefit from the influx of spectators to attend these events and, in doing so, provide a much-needed injection into local economies and the charity foundations which sponsor these various events.

Three concert festivals are making a comeback after an enforced two-year hiatus, Lucknow’s Music In The Fields (August 25-27), Hagersville Rocks (July 23), and the Dundas Cactus Festival (August 19-21).

Blake Shelton and David Rapeljie
Blake Shelton and David Rapelje

According to Lucknow event promoter David Rapelje of TNR Productions, the three-day Lucknow concert provides a major boost to the local economy with crowds, sometimes more than 8,000 people invading the central Bruce County locale, which normally boasts a population of just over 1,000 people.

“With no hotels in the immediate area, most spectators camp out for the event, and most buy three-day passes, so we don’t even sell one-day tickets,” boasted Rapeljie, noting that two of the three-day classifications had already sold out and that there’s only a few of the $165 premium passes still available.

Sheepdogs 2022
The Sheepdogs 2022

Sponsored by the local Kinsmen organization, the non-profit Music In The Fields is named after a bunch of soccer fields that were utilized during the initial festival that was staged in 2008. Grace Hopf donated the site to the Kinsmen (now called Graceland Festival Grounds), and ever since, this event has grown in stature, only to be held up for two years due to the pandemic.

Rapelje, who also organizes the annual Canal Days Festival in Welland, Ontario (July 29 – August 1), notes the talent for Lucknow’s three days is reflective of local tastes, being dominated by Country and Classic Rock artists. Topping the bill are The Sheepdogs, 54:40, Brothers Osbourne and The Hunter Brothers. Information on the full event lineup can be accessed by linking to

Another festival that relies on an influx of visitors is the one-day Hagersville Rocks event, scheduled for Saturday, July 23. Located in a natural amphitheatre which used to be a rock quarry (hence the event name), Hagersville Rocks Music Festival is about to stage its seventh annual event.

The Reklaws with Hagersville Committee Image
The Reklaws with the Hagersville Rocks Committee

Promoted by John Elder and Rob Phillips, Hagersville Rocks Music Festival was revived after a two-year hiatus. A previous festival, Summerfest, had been created as a fund-raiser for the local hospital foundation and was attracting up to 4,000 visitors, so Philips mentioned that a new festival was needed to replace the former event.

“Hagersville doesn’t have a river flowing through it, doesn’t have a fairground, so we felt we needed an attraction to draw people from the surrounding area,” noted Phillips, President of corporate sponsor Heaslip Ford and event chairman and treasurer for the festival. “What we do have is a natural amphitheatre so people can sit on the side of the hill, and the sound is great.”

Hagersville Rocks
Hagersville Rocks Music Festival

The Hagersville Rocks name is in honour of the former quarry, now called Grant Kett Park (renamed Heaslip Ford Ampitheatre for this year’s event) does not reflect the type of music played at the festival. Hagersville Rocks usually has a strong Country vibe, this year featuring Aaron Pritchett and Davidson as headliners. “We get tremendous support from KX94.7 Radio in Hamilton, and the Country Music demographic is what we want to focus on,” Phillips noted.

Aaron Pritchett
Aaron Pritchett at Hagersville Rocks, Saturday, July 23, 2022
Fiddlestix Perform at the Hagersville Rocks 2022 Image
Fiddlestix Perform at Hagersville Rocks, Saturday, July 23, 2022

Restricted to one day due to a lack of local hotel accommodation and camping facilities, Hagersville Rocks kicks off at 2:30 pm with local fiddle rock band Fiddlestix and ends at 10:20 pm with Aaron Pritchett closing the show. Limited tickets for Hagersville Rocks are still available for $49.50 and can be obtained by linking to

Another staple of the Southern Ontario music calendar is the Dundas Cactus Festival which is set to be revived from August 19 – August 21 in the Town of Dundas, a community within Hamilton noted for its crafts community.

Cactus Festival
Cactus Festival August 19 – August 21

In 1975 after the St Judes House Of Province Picnic ended, the Dundas Jaycee organization began to look for a focus around which to build a community event. They wanted the festival to have a marketable name, so they asked Ben Veldhuis, who operated an internationally famous Cacti Greenhouse locally, if they could use Cactus Festival as the event title. He agreed, and for 47 years (less the past two years), The Cactus Festival has grown into a three-day street festival (now located along King Street) featuring vendors, entertainment and three nights’ worth of top-flight musicians.

Bonnie and John
Bonnie Esson and John Balogh

John Balogh and his partner Bonnie Esson, who runs Big Time Productions, have provided entertainment for the past 30 years and this year have booked Montreal’s The BOX to headline on Friday, August 19th with Practically Hip opening, and David Wilcox to headline on Saturday, August 20th. The Sunday, August 21st show will end early at 4 pm; the band has yet to be confirmed.

The Box - Jean-Marc Pisapia - Photo Credit Andrew Clowater
The Box – Jean-Marc Pisapia – Photo Credit Andrew Clowater

Named as one of the top 100 events in Ontario by the Festival Events of Ontario (FEO) organization, the free festival paid for by corporate sponsors has grown in stature because of the event location. “Dundas has always been known as an arts community, and they have always tried to establish an identity separate from Hamilton, so the Cactus Festival achieves that goal,” noted Balogh, who has been involved with the festival for the past 30 years. “In 2020, we had to stage a virtual festival, and in 2021 it was more of a hybrid event, but it’s great that we can return to our live event again this year.”

For further information about The Dundas Cactus Festival, please link to

Related posts