Record attendance marked at 20th Annual Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival

June 7, 2024   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

The 20th Annual Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival, which ran from May 31 to June 2, marked another record-breaking year for attendance and ticket sales.

The festival, held along Broadway and Alexandra Park, featured world-class talent from the jazz and blues genres. Some of the headlining acts included Jack De Keyzer, the Legendary Downchild Blues Band, Dawn Tyler Watson, Nick Moss Band, Heather Bambrick, Ghost Town Blues Band and Laila Biali.

“The music was spectacular this weekend – a lot of great performances and positive comments from everybody there,” said the festival’s founder and artistic director Larry Kurtz. “They really enjoyed the variety of styles of music.”

While the numbers are still being tallied, Kurtz said this year has surpassed the attendance of nearly 40,000 people over three days in 2023.

“We put [the Blues Cruise Car Show] all the way down to Fourth Street on Friday night [May 31], and that seemed like the most people I’ve ever seen on the street – super busy,” Kurtz recalled.

Since returning to its regular programming in 2022, after operating drive-in concerts in 2021 at Rotary Park, the festival has continued to attract more attendees each year.

Triple the pre-sale weekend tickets were sold this year compared to 2023, according to Kurtz.

Organizers are hopeful that momentum will continue into 2025 and consecutive years, as other blues festivals throughout Ontario and across Canada have struggled with reduced attendance and funding.

“There’s a lot to be proud of,” said Kurtz. “Some festivals have gone under. It’s hard to survive the pandemic and we seem to be in a good position right now. We have a good volunteer base, a good board of directors and we were able to navigate through that and come out strong, which is just a testament to how hard our people work.”

He added, “I saw so many people putting in beyond the call of duty this weekend… the volunteers are really, really dedicated. We’d be in big trouble if we didn’t have them.”

Last year the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival didn’t receive any funding through the Experience Ontario program, but this year they recieved $55,000. This money will help with the festival’s sustainability going forward.

Kurtz said he’s really pleased with how the festival turned out over the weekend.

“It accomplished what I hoped it would, that people were walking around, smiling and having a good time,” he said. “There’s a lot of crappy stuff going on in the world, so it was something nice to enjoy a weekend that’s positive, fun and enjoyable.”

Kurtz added, “It’s like reunion for a lot of people. They see their friends they haven’t seen all year, so it’s a great time for everybody, which is what makes me happy, that everybody’s out having a good time.”

For the 20th edition of the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival, Kurtz pulled out all the stops when booking the lineup. Multiple big names were performing this year, which Kurtz says attracted more people to the main stage in Alexandra Park and Opera House at Town Hall.

“We spent more on talent for sure, and the ticket sales were higher because of that,” he reasoned.

Kurtz said one of the highlights for him at this year’s festival was Cane Fire’s performance in the Opera House on Sunday, June 2.

“They were even better than I expected them to be,” he said. “They’re a Caribbean jazz group – all top-notch musicians.”

Despite welcoming over 40,000 people into Orangeville’s downtown core over three days, Sgt. Terri-Ann Pencarinha of the Dufferin OPP said the festival had no issues, and ran peacefully all weekend long.

“It amazes me that we have such a large gathering, and there are no problems. Everybody’s just getting along, and it’s a nice safe event,” said Kurtz.

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