Nova Scotia Summer Fest cancelled again due to COVID-19

ANTIGONISH: For the second year in a row, the Nova Scotia Summer Fest, which was scheduled to move to Columbus Field in downtown Antigonish, has been cancelled.

On May 6, organizers of Nova Scotia’s newest music festival announced that they had to postpone the event for another year due to current and projected health and safety measures, along with continued travel uncertainties.

“The cancellation of 2020 was not a surprise,” founder and executive director Ray Mattie told The Reporter. “The cancellation of 2021 is a surprise only on the fact that it seemed only a few months ago we might be okay, at least with an Atlantic bubble.”

Mattie indicated although this is an unfortunate and unwanted decision, his company’s commitment to the safety of their attendees, volunteers, artists and crews is always his top priority.

“It just became, why delay the inevitable,” he said. “I was hopeful. Look how quickly the Women’s World Hockey Championships had to be cancelled. That tells you how quickly things change on a dime with COVID.”

Despite living in a COVID world for the past year, Mattie indicated he needed to look at it within the “show must go on” mentality, as if there would be an event to follow through with, so it’s been business as usual preparing for the music festival.

Just like any other business that’s customer related, he suggested there is preparation, but hope that it will work out.

“But one thing I did decide last year when it was cancelled was not to do a virtual event. I also didn’t want to do a COVID setup,” Mattie said. “How can you tell (someone) when a band like Neon Dreams or The Trews or Washboard Union are performing and you have to tell them to stay over there.”

Everything from having masses of people using public bathrooms, to standing in long lineups, would’ve been brutally difficult to undertake on any scale, especially outdoors.

“Production wise in 2019, there were zero issues, it was top notch,” Mattie said. “That’s why I made damn sure that aspect could not be sacrificed because people who left said “wow,” and you only get one chance for a wow.”

The inaugural festival attracted 3,200 people, just over 1,100 on night one and night two saw just under 2,100; however, Mattie explained with moving to Columbus Field, there’s now room for approximately 8,000 people.

Those who purchased tickets for Nova Scotia Summer Fest will have their tickets roll over to next summer, although, if concert-goers want a refund, 2021 ticket holders will be contacted and have that option.

The cancellation is not only disappointing for fans, but also for Antigonish businesses that enjoyed the economic spinoff, which will only benefit more local businesses once the event moved downtown.

Mattie stays hopeful he can bring live music and a festival setting back to a big stage in Antigonish in 2022, where he is planning a bigger and better Nova Scotia Summer Fest for the third weekend of August.

The inaugural festival and the past two cancelled events were scheduled for two days, however the festival is planning another jammed packed day of music and is now scheduled for August 19-21, 2022.

“And a band like The Trews, being from Antigonish, has never done that type of event at home because there hasn’t been a chance to do it,” Mattie said. “And there’s also headliners that I couldn’t announce that will now be pushed ahead again, but I can’t announce that until a later date.”

While they’re not starting over from scratch, he suggested they do have enough time to reinvigorate people to get ready for 2022.

“We are holding our own, we’re staying positive and we are ready,” Mattie said. “If this had to be launched in June, everything’s in place to do it; it’s just everything now is on pause.”