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BorderFest organizers ask: ‘Are you ready to rock, Sarnia?’

Cathy Dobson Bluewater BorderFest will rock this summer, thanks largely to a provincial grant, organizers say.
Canadian country music star Brett Kissel performs at the inaugural Bluewater BorderFest music festival in Centennial Park last July. Photo courtesy, Metcalfe Photography

Cathy Dobson 

Bluewater BorderFest will rock this summer, thanks largely to a provincial grant, organizers say.

They are aggressively going after rock and classic rock bands after the second-year music festival landed a Celebrate Ontario grant for up to $53,000, said Mark Perrin, speaking on behalf of PM Entertainment Group.

The same day Perrin learned BorderFest was one of 328 festivals chosen for provincial funding, he sent an offer to a major rock headliner and is optimistic a deal can be reached.

He wouldn’t name names, but said it’s a “well-known act that plays all over North America.

“It’s one of the hottest rock bands,” said Perrin. “We hope to hear soon and announce our entire lineup in April.”

A rock lineup would contrast the all-country lineup at the inaugural Bluewater BorderFest last July.

Perrin said organizers always intended to bring in a mix of musical genres but last summer the touring acts tended toward country.

“This year, it’s the opposite. There’s a lot more rock acts touring and fewer country.”

The first BorderFest in the newly refurbished Centennial Park ran a deficit, as anticipated, Perrin said, who called it “manageable.”

He estimates more than 4,000 people attended the two-day event.

No one expects a new festival to turn a profit, Perrin said.

“Besides, we are a not-for-profit organization and we’ll give any profit we make back to the community.”

Without the Celebrate Ontario grant, Bluewater BorderFest might not have grown this year, he said.

“There would have been one or two headliners. Now we’re looking at four or five.”

To receive the entire $53,000 grant, the festival needs to have a budget of at least $200,000, which means bringing sponsors onboard, Perrin said.

“We had a budget over $200,000 last year with our sponsors, so I don’t see it as being a problem.”

If all goes well, PM Entertainment Group wants to add a third evening of country music, as well as more food vendors and local daytime musicians.

“I’m getting a really positive vibe and have been talking to a lot of people since the grant was announced (March 7),” Perrin said.

“We’re ecstatic to receive the funding this year and, hopefully, we’ll grow from a small to a medium and into a large festival.”

Ticket prices – a source of some grumbling last year – may be reduced thanks to the grant.

Perrin said he’s hopeful single tickets can be priced at $40 -$60, tax included, each night.

Sarnia’s 2018 Bluewater BorderFest is scheduled for July 27, 28, and possibly July 26 as well.

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