Peacefest falls victim to COVID-19

A poster advertising Peacefest on the Town June 12-13 shows the grim reality of the event’s cancellation. Tickets sales will be refunded.

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

The newly-revamped Peacefest music festival was officially cancelled on March 26.

“Due to COVID-19 and the uncertain times we decided this year wasn’t the year to host the event,” chairperson Leah Wood says in a public statement.

“Between the virus, job losses, reduced incomes, and our own budget, the board made the motion to cancel,” she adds.

Peacefest originally began in 1997 as a way for the town of Peace River to pull together after a devastating flood that closed almost half of its businesses and put 180 people out of work. A small group of 25 people held a business fair on Main Street called “We’re Back ‘07” to help boost the local morale and economy. The event raised $35,000 for flood relief and quickly grew into an annual music and arts festival.

In its heyday Peacefest attracted some big names in Canadian music such as Tom Cochrane, Trooper, Big Sugar, Sam Roberts Band, Matthew Good, Gord Bamford, Corb Lund, Blue Rodeo, Glass Tiger, 54-40, Bif Naked, and many others.

However, in recent years the festival has struggled with finances and attracting volunteer support.

The festival was cancelled in 2016, returned in 2017, and was cancelled again in 2018 and 2019.

An enthusiastic group of volunteers had come up with a plan to revive the festival in 2020. Rather than having the event at the 12 Foot Davis ballpark on one large stage, the festival was going to be split up among multiple small local venues June 12-13.

Posters for Peacefest On the Town advertised 64 performances in multiple genres of music at eight venues.

Bands including the Northbloods, Manon Mano, Honey Cowboy and Newcastle Kings had already been announced, with more to be added. Earlybird tickets were already on sale. Any tickets sold so far will be refunded through Eventbrite.

“It’s heart breaking to cancel after a more than a year of planning and we are all disappointed but we have to think of the health of our community,” Wood says.

“We don’t know the economic impact will be as well as what the guidelines for quarantine will be at that point. While it’s disappointing, we take the health of our attendees, artists, volunteers, and the board very seriously and it’s our number 1 priority.”

The board has agreed to move forward with Peacefest 2021.

Board member Victoria Champion says there may be some hope that if time and money allow, organizers may explore a smaller event this year to help local businesses, but it’s simply too soon to make that decision.

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