A Shared Experience: Harvest Music Festival 2022

Category: community 524

Harvest delivers another mammoth year of music, community and memorable experiences.

Ross Neilsen Band in action on stage at the Rocket Blues In The Ginger Agency Barracks. Photo: Matt Carter
Matt Carter

One of my favourite things to do each summer is to hop in the car and drive south toward Saint John along the 102. It’s the old road. It’s twisty and turny and follows the river through about a dozen tiny communities, past ferry crossings, and through endless acres of farmland. I think this is one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the province. More than once I’ve stopped the car, pulled out my camera, and tried my best to capture the beauty of this area in a few simple photographs. But I’ve never quite been able to pull it off. At least not in a way that captures how this part of the province makes me feel. The views, the feel of the summer air, the colours; even the music playing on the car stereo shapes each new experience I have driving that road. It’s a lot more than just the view. And far more than something I could ever capture in a photograph.

My experience driving the 102 is very similar to how I feel each year when I sit down to write about the Harvest Music Festival. I always find it difficult to write about Harvest in a way that contributes something new to the conversation. Fredericton’s end of summer music festival is something that resonates in different ways through the thousands of people who attend the many festival events each and every year. You don’t even have to attend a ticketed performance to understand the immeasurable impact this annual happening has on those who gather here each fall to take part in the experience. 

Every September our social media feeds are ripe with posts about Harvest. There are photos. Videos. Endless mid-performance selfies snapped in a fruitless attempt to capture the magic of the moment the same way I try, year after year, to get “the perfect photo” of the Wolastoq (Saint John River) Valley. It’s literally impossible.

But we keep trying, just like I do each year when I sit down to write about my Harvest experience knowing full-well something so enormous, so varied, and so unique to each individual cannot be effectively summed up in any other way than by being there.  

While no two Harvest experiences are the same, seeing local musicians on stages throughout the city always tops my personal list of annual Harvest highlights. While it’s not like these musicians don’t take every opportunity to play year round, what Harvest provides is unique. This year, through a combination of main stage performances, the six CBC Free Harvest stages, and the many pubs and club stages, visitors and locals alike were given ample opportunity to hear some of our area’s best and brightest in action, often while the sun was still shining. That’s something special and something worth celebrating. 

While I always think we as a community could do more to support (and brag about) the bands and musicians making music all around us during the other 51 weeks in the year, I feel a great sense of pride in seeing individuals, couples and full families hearing groups like Run The River, My Black Ram, Marian, and The Tortoise, The Hair and The Millionaire for the first time. 

While listening to Some Dads playing the City of Fredericton’s Own Stage on Friday night, someone I had never met approached me and asked, “Where are these guys from?” I’m not going to lie, it felt great to tell him they are from here. “They’re from Fredericton.” He went on to tell me what influences he was hearing in their music, and how they reminded him of music he was into “back in the seventies.” We ended up chatting about music for a few minutes before going our separate ways. The last thing he told me: “I’m going to make a point to track these guys down and tell them how much I enjoyed their performance.” 

I thought about that moment for the rest of the weekend. While this year was definitely full of memorable experiences (The War on Drugs = WOW! People singing along to every single Blue Rodeo song = WOW AGAIN!) standing there in front of City Hall and meeting a complete stranger who was so obviously moved by the homegrown music happening on stage that night is something that will stick with me for a while. There was a connection made. A conversation had. A experience shared. An appreciation gained. All wins in some small way. And that’s something that can never be captured in a photo. For me, that’s what the Harvest experience is all about.

HUGE shoutout to the volunteers, organizers, musicians, street performers, vendors, local business owners, and everyone else who helped make another year of Harvest possible. Simply incredible. 

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