The 15th annual Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival was held this past weekend and once again, was a marvelous success! Thousands attended the three-day event, many visitors even coming from other countries to take in the world-class musicians and artists. The weather was terrific for the most part, and while Sunday had showers forecast but cleared up before the afternoon’s event started and stayed away the rest of the day.
This year, there was a change to the admission policy to the main stage area, with a few people quibbling about it but most attendees were very understanding. In past years, the Festival has billed itself partly on being a “free” Festival where everyone could come and listen to all the artists during the Friday, Saturday and Sunday events at no charge. This year, however, the organizers instituted a very small $5.00 admission charge to the Main Stage (Royal-LePage Stage) area.
While there was the odd attendee quibbling about the very small admission charge, most people understood that nothing is really “free” and it costs a lot of money to put on such an amazing weekend of music. The performers don’t perform for free, and in addition, their travel costs also need to be looked after. While the festival relies a lot on sponsorships and donations, in order to continue bringing the same quality of entertainment year after year, it needs a healthy bank account.
For us, some of the highlights of this years festival included Paul James performing during “Blues Cruise” on Friday evening, and again on Friday, the performances of Larry Kurtz And The Law Breakers followed by Dawn Tyler Watson, both of whom performed at the Royal LePage Main Stage.
Saturday’s events began at noon with a Lee Oskar and David Rotundo Harp Workshop at the Orangeville Public Library with locals Soul Collective appearing on the Main Stage at 12:15. Downtown Orangeville was very busy with the many Festival attendees both taking in the music at the Main Stage while also wandering around, listening to great bands and musicians at the various free locations and checking out the vendors and food offerings on 2nd Street and in the TD parking lot.
A big highlight of Saturday’s events was the “Dods & McNair Memorial March With Turbo Street Funk.” Turbo Street Funk led the crowd on an old fashioned “march,” typical of a traditional New Orleans funeral march. For the Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival, it’s meant to honour the past volunteers of the festival who have helped to make it the great event it is today.
Saturday night finished off at the Main Stage with the raucous Chicago blues music performed by Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials. A great performance that had the crowd cheering and begging for more at the end. And a beautiful evening it was, to be listening to Lil’ Ed.
The final day of the festival, Sunday, began with Chris Antonik performing at the Main Stage at noon. While there was a chance of rain, and the skies were cloudy, Chris got us all of to a great start and the rain was kept at bay for the rest of the day. The rest of the afternoon continued with great music, but the grand finale – truly was grand indeed! Almost anyone familiar with some of the great music of the 1970’s will remember The Band – And the last performance of the Festival was performed by The Last Waltz – A musical celebration of THE BAND – Live. The star-studded lineup including Chuck Jackson (lead singer of the Downchild Blues Band), Jerome Levon Avis (Levon Helm’s godson) and Johnny Max had the crowd dancing, singing, laughing and even crying as memories of The Band were told.
After The Last Waltz’s encore, we all knew we had been witness to another fantastic Blues & Jazz Festival in Orangeville, Ontario! Thanks to all the great organizers and volunteers that helped make it happen, and of course, to all the many attendees who came from far and wide to attend!