Americana Review writer Jason Gartshore shares his summer festival memories
With the passing of summer and the transition in to fall, many wonderful memories linger. I had the great pleasure of attending two amazing music festivals this past August, both within an hour or so of Durham Region, depending on where you are. One such festival has become a major event on the musical calendar in Canada, while another is a little less loud, but a growing event nonetheless. The 26th edition of the Havelock Country Jamboree took place from August 13th to August 16th in Havelock, Ontario.
As mentioned, this event has grown to become one of the major festivals in Canada, and I would go further to suggest it’s one of the largest in North America. Crowds in excess of 30,000 packed the festival site for the better part of the week. The Havelock Jamboree boasts some of the best camping facilities for such an event, and the campgrounds were full to capacity. The entertainment offerings are wonderfully varied, as guests were treated to outstanding performances by headliners Big and Rich (“Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy”, “Lost In This Moment”), legends Tanya Tucker (“Delta Dawn”, “Strong Enough To Bend”, “Lizzie and the Rainman”) and Joe Diffie (“John Deere Green”, “Ships That Don’t Come In”), rising stars Autumn Hill (“Heat of the Night”) and Brett Kissel (“Airwaves”), topped off with a good dose of local talent like The Zapletals.
Perhaps the most surprising and outstanding performance of the weekend occurred with 11 year old EMISUNSHINE, a pint sized young lady who possesses an indescribable amount of talent. Performing an incredible set of Americana and mountain soul songs, EMISUNSHINE captivated the audience with her voice, her musicianship and her song writing (which she shares mostly with her mother and aunt). Without question, this child prodigy will be on the scene for a long, long time.
The following weekend saw family and I attending the 26th edition of the Peterborough Folk Festival. Kicking off on Friday August 22nd at Market Hall with the outstanding Matt Andersen, the festival featured musical artists and artisans at Nichol’s Oval Park for the following two days. This year’s festival was all about growth, as the festival expanded to include a full musical set on Sunday August 24th. Performing on the Sunday afternoon stage was local favorite and rising star Melissa Payne, as well as the incomparable Irish Mythen who was concluding her summer tour on the riverside stage in Peterborough.
I’ve written at length about the talent and importance of Irish Mythen as an artist, and she continues to impress and grow her fan base with each performance. The largest crowd of the day arrived in time for Joel Plaskett, who performed songs from an upcoming album inspired by great American songwriters as Joe South, Tony Joe White and Roger Miller. The beauty of both of these festivals, in addition to their location to Durham Region, is that they are family-centric. They offer two different experiences, for example Havelock is a camping experience. Virtually everyone who attends Havelock stays on site. The campgrounds are large and expansive, but comfortable and will add to the “family reunion” feeling.
Many attendees of the Havelock Jamboree have attended every year since its inception. The Peterborough Folk Festival is certainly much smaller, which lends itself to a real community feeling. The location of the main stage at Nicol’s Oval is perfect. The stage is set on the banks of the Otonabee River, which perfectly complements the hillside seating. A splash pad and playground are also available, which can make this an attractive festival for families with young children. The cost feature is quite nice too – you can pay by donation.