Facing the music: Summer concert festival organizers see no path ahead in pandemic


Summer 2021 was supposed to mark the triumphant return of Canadian music festivals. Instead, it’s ushering in another season of disappointment.

As COVID-19 cases surge across the country, many of Canada’s beloved summer music events are falling like dominoes with organizers abandoning any hope of a return this year.

Since the start of April, RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa, the Country Thunder festivals in Craven, Sask. and Calgary, as well as folk festivals in Winnipeg and Edmonton have been among those who’ve announced cancellations.

And in the coming weeks, several other major music events are expected to make the final call on their own prospects of a 2021 summer festival season in the shadow of stricter health guidelines and surging cases of new variants of the virus.

Organizers say big music festivals are planned well in advance, and eventually need to face questions about mass gatherings and whether it’s possible to bring U.S. artists and their crew into the country.

Terry Wickham, producer of the cancelled Edmonton Folk Music Festival, says other risks also made this year’s event impossible, such as the possibility of having local health authorities cancel the event last-minute because of a sudden rise in cases.

“If I thought things were going change in the next few weeks, I’d have hung in, but I just don’t see it,” he said.

David Friend, The Canadian Press