Small town charm a guiding principal for Paddlefest organizers.
Despite its initial focus on canoeing, kayaking and a general appreciation for the beautiful coastline of the Passamaquoddy Bay, Paddlefest has grown to become one of the best kept secrets on the New Brunswick music festival circuit, attracting music lovers, outdoor enthusiasts and those eager to start their summer weekend adventures, to the otherwise sleepy, historical town of St. Andrews, New Brunswick.
“I think the unique combination of music, paddling activities and the small town setting attracts a lot of people,” said Luke MacDonald, who has helped lead the festival’s organizing committee for the past four years. “St. Andrews is seen as a destination spot because of its down-home charm, and we try reflect that small town charm in the festival as well as much as we can. Plus being one of the first events to kick off the festival/summer season definitely helps us.”
MacDonald recognizes the broad range of visitors the festival attracts and together with the event’s planning committee, strives to program a weekend’s worth of activities that encompass the interests and expectations of the festival’s audience, a demographic that spans Paddlefest’s twenty year history.
“An important part of Paddlefest is having something for everyone,” he said. “The festival has been running, in different forms, for 20 years so there’s a number of different crowds that have been coming throughout, and programming something for all of them is definitely a priority. Having events this year like the Hot Toddy reunion show and the special 20 Years Songwriter’s Circle and bringing back festival favourites like The Mellotones and Keith Hallett were important to us to celebrate the milestone.”
In addition to festival favourites, this year’s lineup also includes a performance by indie-folk ensemble, The Barr Brothers.
“Bringing in a headliner like The Barr Brothers was really just a stroke of luck and good timing,” said MacDonald. “That work out well for us as we feel they encapsulate where Paddlefest has been and where it is now.”
As with most other festivals, Paddlefest struggles with the inherent goal of growing and developing its programming while also keeping the small town charm that has come to define the event over the past two decades.
“St. Andrews is such a perfect location for a small festival like ours and we never want to lose that,” said MacDonald. “We do think there’s room for growth, we’re already working on plans to launch a second stage in the coming years and we’re always looking to use different locations around the town as unique venues, including Ministers Island. Saying that, we never want to be a festival with long lines and overwhelming crowd sizes. Modest and simple fits us well.”
Visit Paddlefest online to see the full schedule of performers and events planned for 2016. Paddlefest takes place May 19-22, 2016.