By Keith Sharp
Understanding the chaos caused by the cancellation of one festival concert caused by the pandemic, you can imagine the effect of planning three festivals and having all three put on hold for the past two years.
But that’s exactly what happened to the organizers of Dauphin’s Countryfest, Rockin The Fields Of Minnedosa and Thunder Bay’s Country In The Bay events as the two-year epidemic forced them to hit the pause button.
Fortunately, all three events are set to go this year, with Dauphin Countryfest launching June 30-July 2nd, followed by Country In The Bay July 21-23, concluding with the classic-rock-oriented Rockin The Fields Of Minnedosa Festival August 4-6.
“COVID really did a number on us,” admitted Dauphin Assistant Manager Kamryn Winters, who also toils as the event manager for the other two festivals. “Two years of no income for all three festivals, especially when you consider Dauphin and Minnedosa are non-profit events. We kept all of our employees on our payroll, and we worked from home, but it was one of those disheartening things. You are planning concerts, but you are not sure that anything is going to happen and that your time is being wasted.”
What was particularly galling for Dauphin event organizers was that they had initially secured the booking of Morgan Wallin before the release of his hit album `Dangerous.’ “We would have gotten him before he was so expensive. That would have made Dauphin sustainable for the next year,” Winters noted while admitting that attracting key artists to their festivals is always an ongoing battle. “We are almost in the middle of nowhere for some people. You ask people to come to Thunder Bay, and that’s pretty isolated, and Dauphin and Minnedosa are located in the middle of the Prairies. Also, two of our festivals are staged on long weekends during the summer, you are trying to convince people to spend time with us, but COVID meant we lost a lot of momentum. Instead of coming to our concerts, people were buying campers or cabins or going somewhere else, people got used to not going to concerts anymore, and now it’s a challenge to get them to come back.”
Like other major concert franchises, Dauphin networks with Thunder Bay to offer two bookings for headline acts with the likes of Walker Hayes, Tim Hicks, Robyn Ottolini, James Barker Band and Tennille Townes all booked to play both festivals. “It helps to lock in the artists; they are likely to select your venue if you can offer them multiple dates,” Winters allowed.
Country on The Bay had not staged a concert prior to COVID, while Dauphin has been operational for the past 33 years and has established itself as one of the key established country festivals. “But even that is being threatened. At one point, if you wanted to see a major country act, you had to come to Dauphin, but now promoters like Live Nation can now route through cities like Winnipeg, which is just three hours away from Dauphin so now it’s becoming a saturated market.”
Winters notes that Rockin The Fields of Minnedosa creates its own challenges as its regular classic rock lineups are now being threatened by a depleting supply of classic rock bands. “It’s hard to find `new’ classic rock bands,” she notes dryly. “At what point do you stop calling it a classic rock festival? We have added The Glorious Sons this year, and that was a big deal for us; there has to be some sort of transition.”
Aside from Kingston Ontario’s Glorious Sons, this year’s lineup features former Foreigner frontman Lou Gramm, ex-Skid Row lead vocalist Sebastian Bach, Aldo Nova, Toronto, Kick Axe, The Sheepdogs, Jack Russell’s Great White and Dallas Smith’s Default over the three-day event.
All three festivals are organized by Rob Waloschuk, who succeeds in keeping a low profile. while running the shows with a trusted staff of organizers. “Rob is the Charlie to all the Angels,” Winter laughs. “He runs the shows, but you never really see him; you don’t know he’s there.
Please link to the following sites for ticket information and lineups for all three festivals.
Dauphin Countryfest – https://countryfest.ca/contact
Thunder Bay’s Country In The Bay – https://www,countryinthebay.ca
Rockin The Fields Of Minnedosa – https://rockinthefields.ca