No Peterborough Musicfest this summer

Non-profit organization postpones 34th season of Canada's longest-running free-admission summer concert series until 2021 due to COVID-19

A large crowd at Del Crary Park in downtown Peterborough watches a performance on the Fred Anderson stage at Peterborough Musicfest, Canada's longest-running free-admission summer concert series. For the first time in its 33-year history, the festival has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Peterborough Musicfest)
A large crowd at Del Crary Park in downtown Peterborough watches a performance on the Fred Anderson stage at Peterborough Musicfest, Canada's longest-running free-admission summer concert series. For the first time in its 33-year history, the festival has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Peterborough Musicfest)

In a normal year, a highlight of May is Peterborough Musicfest’s announcement of which musical acts will be performing at Del Crary Park in downtown Peterborough over the summer.

But it’s not a normal year. With music festivals across Canada and around the world being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peterborough Musicfest has now followed suit.

Canada’s longest-running free-admission summer concert series has officially postponed its 34th season until 2021.

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The board of directors of the non-profit organization made the announcement on Tuesday morning (May 12).

“To postpone an entire season — a first in our thirty-three year history — is disheartening to say the least,” says Peterborough Musicfest board chair Brenda O’Brien. “That said, we know it is the right thing to do. These are unprecedented times that require concrete action to save lives. Our community, performers, staff members, contractors, and volunteers deserve no less.”

The 2020 festival had been scheduled to run every Saturday and Wednesday evening from June 27th to August 22nd.

While individual concerts in a season have been cancelled in the past due to inclement weather, this is the first time in its 33-year history an entire festival season has been cancelled.

Around 135,000 people attended Musicfest in 2019, generating an estimated $5 million for the local economy. Musicfest also helps create the equivalent of 44 local jobs every summer.

“We know the festival’s postponement will be very difficult for many workers, businesses, attractions and performers to shoulder”, reads a festival media release. “We hope to have more information about new initiatives in the coming months, and we very much look forward to seeing you all in Del Crary Park in 2021, where we will once again join together to celebrate our spirited community with the life-giving force that is music.’

Founded by the late Fred Anderson in 1986, the festival held its inaugural concert on July 1, 1987 featuring the late jazz great Moe Koffman as the headliner.

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The festival was originally called the Peterborough Summer Festival of Lights, as each concert was followed by an illuminated boat show and a fireworks display over Little Lake.

For financial reasons, the boat show was dropped in 2005, as were the fireworks in 2009. The following year, the festival was renamed Little Lake MusicFest and then to Peterborough Musicfest in 2013.

The festival’s concerts are free admission as they are funded by a mix of corporate sponsorships, government grants, fundraising initiatives, and private donations.

Musicians who have performed at the festival over the years include Ronnie Hawkins, Gordon Lightfoot, Buffy Sainte-Marie, John McDermott, Kim Mitchell, Tom Cochrane, Blue Rodeo, Serena Ryder, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tegan and Sara, Our Lady Peace, Randy Bachman, Chad Brownlee, and City and Colour.

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