While Harvest Jazz and Blues draws in 15,000 music lovers annually, Chairperson of Harvest Jazz Mike Comeau says it is not just returning hardcore fans they want to attend.
“I went in my twenties, it wasn’t about Harvest – it was about David Wilcox,” said Comeau. “He was a Canadian blues-rocker I had seen before in bars and I wanted to see him. I feel like a lot of patrons come in that way.”
But this is why the larger festival of Harvest isn’t promoted too intensely during Welcome Week or during orientation on campuses, according to Comeau.
While Comeau wants students to attend, he knows the best way to pitch, the festival to students is with the individual acts.
He says Harvest is not about increasing the numbers of concertgoers by the busload; that would take away from the festivals more intimate and personal vibe at venues, it’s about drawing in individuals with smaller venues.
There is also an important balance between young and old.
“We want to try and grow it organically. Even if we had the physical space to do it we don’t want to have a concert with ten thousand people in it, said Comeau. “People come from all over [to see Harvest] because the crowds are so small.”
Comeau says although the festival grows each year, there is an unspoken rule among Harvest-goers, a certain fellowship between new and old fans.
“There is a completely different vibe than there is during the rest of the year – people who wouldn’t normally talk to each other are talking and Harvest is a great equalizer.”
The unifying factor of Harvest isn’t just for young and old, it’s about bringing together music-lovers of all genres.
Comeau says jazz and blues are indeed the foundation of the festival’s genre, but it always comes back to bringing the community together.
For Harvest organizers, it’s about creating a scene or an event that gets people talking and networking.
The point of Harvest comes down to that simple conversation about a mind-blowing show for one person that could be the catalyst for getting someone else to go to something completely foreign to them the next day, according to Comeau.
“We almost had a marching band from New Orleans come in. It’s a conscious choice not to go all over the place music-wise but to go as far and wide as those genres of blues and jazz will take us to get the people in on the party.”
If you are a first-timer, Comeau proposes nothing else but to wander downtown on a Friday or Saturday night. He says it’s a good way for people to find out just how and why Harvest is important on so many levels.
“Fredericton comes alive during Harvest in a way that it does not for 51 weeks of the year,” said Comeau. “The passion is around and that has an effect on people.”
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