‘Historic weekend’ sets new attendance record for Fredericton’s Harvest Festival

Organizers at Fredericton’s Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival are celebrating a record attendance figure this year.

The six-day festival wrapped up its 29th season Sunday night with around 100,000 attendees on the books.

“It was a historic weekend all around,” said Brent Staeban, director of the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival.

Staeban attributes the festival’s smashing success to music superstars: Nathaniel Rateliff, Lucinda Williams, Charlie Musselwhite and crowd favourite, Robert Plant, who performed Friday night.

“It will be a legacy piece for the festival that we can talk about for many, many, many years to come. Some stories for the grandkids probably,” he said. 

“Now we have to build on it for next year.” 

Visitors travel far and wide

Staeban said ticket revenue was up 20 per cent from last year, bringing in about $1 million. This year, he said the festival was able to sell about 25,000 tickets and passes for the September event.

“We knew going into the summer, really, that our advance sales were massive,” he said.

“As the festival started to come together, we could really see the excitement around the acts, and that translated into huge crowds in the venues.”

While the festival saw many Maritimers in attendance, it also saw visitors travelling from all over North America, including places like Minnesota and California.

“I think that was reflective of Plant and Rateliff, and [Jason] Isbell. And people coming from all over America to see these acts,” he said.

Festival ‘feels like home’

But it wasn’t just the big headliners who felt the energy from last week’s crowds. Local musicians like Stephen Lewis were also able to get in on all the excitement.

The Fredericton musician and his band, Stephen Lewis and the Big Band of Fun, performed at the Barracks Tent at this year’s festival. 

“For me personally it was the best and biggest year yet,” he said.

Lewis said he was able to curate the lineup and present new energy and excitement to the venue.

“It just went off like a firework. It was incredible,” he said.

Organizers are already getting ready for Harvest’s 30th season next year and a number of offers are already in for headlining artists.

Staeban hopes next year will bring in even more visitors to the festival.

“It feels like home for a lot of people,” he said.