ANTIGONISH, N.S. - Alan Doyle. Classified. Christine Campbell. Cassie and Maggie. Anna Ludlow.
A strong musical line-up for any festival and the entertainment contingent announced by organizer Ray Mattie, Jan. 23, as those who will be headlining the inaugural Nova Scotia Summer Fest, Aug. 23 and 24, at Keppoch Mountain, in Antigonish County.
“Alan Doyle, the lead singer from Great Big Sea, he hasn’t been here, I think he said, in over a decade … it has been a long time,” Mattie said, talking to reporters following a launch event for the new festival, which took place in the community room at the People’s Place Library.
“He has a history here; I remember seeing them [Great Big Sea] here when I was a student at St. F.X. They were just starting out, there was like 15 people at the [Golden X] Inn, or something like that.
“So that covers the lead on the roots side and for headlining on the other side, on the Friday, we have Classified,” Mattie said, adding organizers wanted to include a “different genre.”
“It’s kind of like when they ask, ‘is Nova Scotia just bagpipes and fiddles?’ No, it’s rap, it’s country, it’s rock, and Christine Campbell is the rock part.”
“And we’re proud of Anna Ludlow, we’re proud of Cassie and Maggie, and our roots and we’re going to celebrate that, hands-down, with them and Alan, but show there is another side.”
Ludlow and Cassie and Maggie (MacDonald) also add a local element to the festival line-up with Ludlow being from Antigonish and the MacDonald sisters having deep family ties to the area.
Mattie talked more about the name and presenting a range of musical styles, noting how that will play into the richness and sustainability of the festival.
“That is why it’s not called a folk fest, a jazz fest, a blues fest, it’s about Nova Scotia beyond the music, because we want the culture, the food and the eco-tourism part, that is pivotal for long-term sustainability,” he said.
“If you zero in too close, it’s difficult to expand, so this name leaves us open-ended.”
Not Columbus Field
When Mattie made a presentation regarding the festival to Antigonish Town Council last September, the plan was for the festival to be held at Columbus Field.
“First of all the size; in the long haul, we don’t want to get to a point in three or four years, which we hope [to be doing so], and then have to move … so that was the first step,” he said, about the location change.
“The second step is it’s a dry field; you can’t have an event of this size and not have alcohol served. They have a clause there with the Knights of Columbus and we respect that, we don’t want to try and get anyone to waver to change that; so Keppoch, being on private property, if it grows to 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, 6,000, 7,000, 8,000, whatever it is, we don’t need to move the location.”
Parking is another area accommodated by the more spacious venue.
“Keppoch is handling parking and there is a lot of space out there already designated for that,” he said.
“So we talked to traffic control already, through the RCMP and municipality, and they’re going to be helping putting that aspect together. That is another issue with Columbus Field, it would have been too much jumbled into one very condensed spot. Out there, you can space it out and you don’t have to worry about closing down streets and things like that.”
Positive Action for Keppoch board of directors president John Chiasson spoke during the launch and said the festival is “exactly what we were looking for.”
“An event that brought in our local culture, our local food, ales, and also showcased this region of Nova Scotia,” Chiasson said.
“This is exciting. There will be many who enjoy this from our area and many will come from other areas and enjoy it as well, but all of us here will feel the pride of knowing we live in a place where people, like Ray, have ideas, a vision, and create things where nothing was there before. So we’re thrilled to be a partner of this project; using our place as a stage for the whole thing to take place.”
Asked about attendance goals for the first festival of what he hopes are many, Mattie said between 3,500 to 4,000 people.
“That’s reasonable based on the acts we have, based on the ticket prices; that’s a reasonable projection based on all the events I’ve done and based on the festival directors I’ve spoken to,” he said “If we get more than that, that’s even better.”
A big part of the festival is that revenue generated goes towards music summer camps for youth, starting the following year.