GUYSBOROUGH: Some confusion municipal councillors had around a longstanding concert festival in Canso and what’s happening this summer, arose last week.

The warden for the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) says senior staff aren’t happy the organizers of the Stan Rogers Folk Festival are holding an alternative event elsewhere this summer.

Following the municipality’s regular monthly council meeting on June 16, Warden Vernon Pitts explained while he learned about the festival’s move during the meeting, council was extremely disappointed.

“When we turn around and take a community idea, and we leave the area with that idea to utilize it elsewhere, based upon former residents of that municipal unit, to me that’s a low blow,” Pitts said. “I don’t like the manner in which it’s going down.”

The warden acknowledged he doesn’t know how the festival would have worked out in Canso, as he recognizes the intricacies of hosting and running a successful and safe event, let alone one during a global pandemic.

But the fact remains; the municipality doesn’t like the organizer’s decisions to make the move out of the community.

“Everything seems to be turned over on its head, but we as a council don’t think it was a good move on (their) behalf,” Pitts said. “We think it’s basically a slap in the face to this community.”

In a subsequent media release on June 18 from Troy Greencorn, on behalf of the StanFest board and staff, he explained the 2020 and 2021 festivals were cancelled as a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting public health risks and restrictions.

“Over the past 15 months, we have received considerable input from our community and broader audience that there was significant concern about staging a gathering in Canso, even if provincial gathering restrictions permitted,” Greencorn said. “In addition to feedback our board gathered, we did a detailed survey earlier this year and collected over 300 responses. We asked, we listened and we responded accordingly.”

He indicated it’s heartbreaking to go a second year without a live event in Canso, but festival organizers feel it is the right and safe decision, and look forward to celebrating their 25th anniversary in Canso in 2022.

While the festival can’t gather with a large crowd at their normal home base, they have been exploring numerous options to deliver a performance experience; the first involves using the deCoste Performing Arts Centre in Pictou for five live-streamed summer shows that will now be able to have a small audience at the theatre, because of eased restrictions from public health.

StanFest organizers also intend to do other shows throughout the fall and winter, while exploring the possibility whether the community is comfortable and supportive of a live outdoor show in September or sometime in the fall.

“Virtual shows are not a replacement of the festival, and certainly aren’t an indication that the festival is exploring other locations (or) venues,” Greencorn said. “In our survey, over half of the respondents recommended live-streaming as our best course of action until the event can go ahead at its normal scale.”

He indicated the response on moving to a live-streamed event has been great, with ticket sales coming from almost every part of the province and from all over the country.

“This is your event, and we are doing our very best to make the next right decisions in an ever changing situation. These are challenging times, but Nova Scotia has been doing a tremendous job of managing the pandemic,” Greencorn added. “We will get through this, and our event will survive and thrive, well into the future.”