Upper Canada FolkFest backers see opportunity amid COVID-19 shambles

Above, a new home for Upper Canada FolkFest. Van Dusen photo, Nation Valley News

Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News

PRESCOTT — In an era when festivals, fairs and other events are pulling the plug because of COVID-19 restrictions, one group of musicians has decided it’s a great time to launch a brand new attraction with plans to make it annual.

The group has announced the first Upper Canada FolkFest to take place at Prescott’s outdoor harbour-side Kinsmen Amphitheatre Oct. 3 featuring several well-known Canadian performers over a five-hour period (1-6 p.m.). Admission is $40 each for single or couples seating; no “bubble” seating will be permitted.

Under normal conditions, the amphitheatre can accommodate up to 500 audience members; usually it’s home to the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival as well as Summer Concert Series, both of which have fallen victim to COVID this year.

But with Ontario COVID regulations easing, FolkFest organizers saw an opportunity. Only 100 will be admitted to the event with all C-19 sanitizing and distancing guidelines to be strictly adhered to, said Mary Moore, part of the organizing committee, who called it “an event not to be missed.”

Founders of FolkFest include George Tierney of local fan favourite band Happy Crap, Graham Lindsey, Celtic musician and video production specialist, Arthur McGregor, former owner of the Ottawa Folklore Centre, and Herb Cloutier, producer, promoter and sound engineer.

The play bill includes recording artists Tripod (Terry Tufts, Kathryn Briggs, and Beth Tufts) Lynn Hanson, Jim Bryson, Anna Ludlow, and James Keelaghan. All are veterans of the Eastern Ontario folk and roots music scene.

The amphitheatre is a municipal facility which was closed to all uses for the first several months of the pandemic. With COVID considerations in place, it has reopened lately to Sunday morning church
services, meetings and other smaller events.

Delighted about the lineup, music aficionado Prescott Mayor Brett Todd thanked Tierney and his organizing team for considering Prescott as site for the new festival: “I’m thrilled we’ll be hosting this
great event. It’s been too long since we’ve heard music along the shores of the St. Lawrence River.”

Todd sees FolkFest as symbolic: “We need to close out the warm weather with a party that lets everyone know we’re coming back from the pandemic stronger than ever.”

Only one recurring Prescott event remains on the calendar for 2020, the Fort Town Night Run Sept. 26 raising money for youth programs. More than 200 people have signed up for the 2020 Athletics Ontario accredited event.

Starting at 8 a.m., two runners will depart Fort Wellington every two-and-a-half minutes as part of a C-19 goal to avoid crowds congregating. COVID protocols will be in place every step of the 5 km, 10 km, or 15 km routes.


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