I woke up the morning after the Harvest Jazz & Blues week and my ears were still ringing.
I made my way downtown to grab a coffee before work. The Harvest week closed off Queen Street and was filled with festival goers. Today, it seemed as though all of the streets were closed off but there were no people. The city was deserted.
During Harvest, I had gotten my big city fix. Two weeks later, I’m still going through withdrawals.
“I mean, in the week afterwards it’s a recover zone in Fredericton,” said Erin Keating from her office at the Harvest headquarters. “It’s definitely much quieter for a week or two afterwards, but I think that things liven up again all through the winter and the rest of the months. I think people just need to recover.”
I was wondering how long this recovery period was going to last.
I can be critical about Fredericton culture, but I know it exists. It was here during Harvest and I believe it’s here year round. But what good is being a cultural city when there’s no one passionate enough to enjoy it?
I’ve made it my mantra this to experience the arts I think should be explored more. I’ve gone to many shows at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre where no more than two rows of the audience are occupied. I’ve dragged myself to Zee’s when there’s a good show, and I’m just realizing now how much talent we have here at St. Thomas.
I understand we can’t get the volume of people in the city that we have over Harvest, but quality over quantity my friends. A few enthusiastic folks outweigh the numbers.
Former New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham is no stranger to the Harvest festival.
“The Avett Brothers were the highlight for me. They were like Mumford & Sons on steroids.”
I caught up with Graham at Joel Plaskett and later on in the week over the phone. He said the city has to keep an eye out for more opportunities like Harvest.
“Harvest brings in thousands of spectators and creating a festive atmosphere. We have to find a way to bring that around all year,” said Graham.
Keating seems to think we have those opportunities all year round, but if that’s true, where is everybody? People from Fredericton seem to take pride in Harvest and I think that’s well established. As a city, we know how to host.
“There’s a little empty feeling, definitely. You see [during Harvest] thousands of people walking downtown on the street with their families, hand in hand, to see the free shows and paid venues. There’s a different aura and feel in the city,” said Graham. “I’m proud of the volunteers and that the actual festival has been able to build on the success.”
Fredericton is a university town so most events are geared towards that age bracket, instead of families ‘walking hand in hand.’ Maybe, we’re just missing the older demographic?
It’s clear Harvest is growing and thriving, but it’s unclear if the city is. Population wise we’re lacking, said Keating. We have to take into consideration that Fredericton, although technically a city, is small.
“In terms of all the festivals and promoters I think we all do a really good job of playing nice with each other,” she said. “We don’t compete. Sonic Entertainment isn’t going to put on a huge act in the same week. Our city doesn’t have the largest population to draw crowds from, or expendable income towards culture. We have to work on the balance and not step on each other’s toes.”
Organizations aren’t competing to sell tickets and Frederictonians aren’t competing with each other to buy those tickets. You know what they say, sharing is caring.
I was beginning to think my fix is out of reach after my two weeks of small city rehab. I got home and checked my Facebook after a long day of bumping into no one I knew.
A friend of mine, Mike Doherty, resident composer and sound director for Theatre New Brunswick had updated his status. It seemed as though I wasn’t the only one trying to wake up a sleepy town.
“Fredericton, continue to leave your homes in the evenings post Harvest. Go to plays. Go hear live music that is not an event to attend (or that is). Go to the library. Go to a pub. Walk around downtown- visit the shops. Risk trying something some other time of the year. Let’s end the myth that we can only be a city that comes alive for five days in September. This is an amazing city that is alive all year long. We need you though!”
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