ANTIGONISH: In another seven months, the lights will be on.
During the launch of Nova Scotia’s newest music festival on January 23 in Antigonish, organizer Ray Mattie unveiled the platform behind the festival and the inaugural line-up for the Nova Scotia Summer Fest, talking place August 23-24 at Keppoch Mountain in Antigonish County.
Hitting the Nova Scotia Summer Fest stage for the first time will be former Great Big Sea frontman Allan Doyle; Juno award winning rapper Classified; Halifax rocker Christine Campbell; sisters Cassie & Maggie and local favourite Anna Ludlow. More names will be announced in the coming months, as well as supporting acts being drawn from Halifax and Cape Breton.
“The two headlining acts are very well known nationally – and the others, certainly are known regionally and locally as well,” Mattie highlighted. “This has been on my mind for over 10-years. Everything just seemed to line up at the right time – the project started in December of 2017 and took 13-months to get to this point.”
Celebrating musical roots, Allan Doyle will headline Saturday night of the festival and will visit Antigonish for the first time in over a decade, bringing with him an ultimate East Coast kitchen party experience.
“He has a history here; I remember seeing them [Great Big Sea] here when I was a student at StFX,” Mattie said. “They were just starting out and there were like 15 people at The Inn, or something like that.”
Classified, coming off his 2018 release of Tomorrow Could Be The Day Things Change will headline the Friday evening as organizers wanted to hit another genre and showcase the true range of Nova Scotian musicians.
“It’s kind of like when people ask ‘is Nova Scotia just bagpipes and fiddles?’” Mattie said. “No, it’s rap, it’s country, it’s rock, and the Friday will act as sort of a hip-hop, rock ’n roll kind of night.”
Halifax-based Campbell, whose sound resembles Heart meets Alanis Morissette will rock the stage with her band Friday evening.
Adding a bit of local flair, Antigonish’s Ludlow, who is the lead fiddler in the Broadway production Come From Away, will be sharing a new recording which will be released in August. Juno award nominees, Cassie & Maggie, who have family ties to Antigonish, and according to Mattie are “just on the cusp of something really big,”will also perform.
CTV’s Ana Almedia will act as MC for the event, which Mattie hopes will attract 3,500 – 4,000 people based on the acts and ticket prices.
“For our first year, that’s a reasonable projection based on the events I have done, and festival directors I’ve spoken too. If we get more than that, even better,” he said. “This is a good starting point because it’s affordable for us, but we don’t want something too big before the infrastructure and the town can handle it.”
Mattie said organizers didn’t want to oversell the price, but being at Keppoch allows them to expand the size and keep the costs down. Early bird single-day passes are $40, with the weekend pass $70. After St. Patrick’s Day, regular prices kick in at $50 and $90 respectively. VIP tickets will be $150 and be limited to 125 per day.
Nova Scotia Summer Fest is beyond just the music, it’s about culture, food, hospitality, and eco-tourism, which play pivotal roles in long-term sustainability. Their presenting sponsors are; East Coast Credit Union, Keppoch Mountain, CBDC, XFM, Virgin Radio, and CTV.
Creating an experience that’s beyond grab a drink and go, Mattie said they partnered with Havre Boucher-based Cabot Oysters and will offer an oyster bar, something Taste of Nova Scotia is excited about. It will also feature a beer tent, with security on site checking IDs in different locations.
The festival will provide a lot of opportunity for local vendors to take part will bring in tourism dollars, and act as an opportunity to market Antigonish at a higher level.
“The locals can find out what different [food] options are in their backyard and the people coming from away can experience that in conjunction with the music festival, Keppoch Mountain, and the outdoors.”
When Mattie made a presentation to Antigonish Town Council last September, the plan originally pegged Columbus Filed as the site for the festival – but with the potential for expansion and an existing no-alcohol clause, the location just didn’t work.
“First of all, it’s too small. We don’t want to get to a place in three or four years, which we hope, and have to move locations,” he said regarding the location. “Second, it’s a dry field, so you can’t have an event this size and not have alcohol served.”
John Chiasson, Positive Action for Keppoch board of directors president, said during the launch the festival was exactly what they were looking for.
“An event that brought in our local culture, our local food, ales, and also showcased this region of Nova Scotia – this is exciting,” Chiasson said. “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.”
The Nova Scotia Summer Fest Association is a non-profit corporation with a mandate to develop and grow the town and county of Antigonish into a world-class event and eco-tourism destination.
As a social enterprise, the profits generated from the festival will create youth summer music camps the following year, with the first round of camp slated for 2020.
Growing up in Tracadie, Mattie said he was lucky to receive music training from a teacher who took it upon himself to create a music program.
“But after that I had no training once I hit high school, and right now that’s still the case down there – there are no high school music programs,” he said. “My parents sent me to Halifax as a kid and I was able to interact with other musicians long before the Internet existed.”
So Mattie wanted to give parents the opportunity to have their kids doing these type of things here, in their community, and to do it the week before so they can attend after their week at camp and see how an event like this works.
Tickets can be purchased through any TicketPro locations or the Nova Scotia Summer Fest Web site: www.novascotiasummerfest.ca.