A popular New Brunswick music festival is back with a new format for 2021.
The Area 506 festival has taken over Long Wharf in Saint John, it has been its home for three years since its inception in 2016.
The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the 2020 festival into a combination of online performances and archived footage.
This year’s version began on Friday with performances by comedians James Mullinger and Nikki Payne and the music group Grand Theft Bus.
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Zone 506 president and committee chair Ray Gracewood said there is a lot of excitement about this year’s festival as it is one of the first large-scale entertainment events in Canada since the start. of the pandemic.
âSo we had about 35 United Way volunteers rushing to pods delivering drinks and food, and the only comment that came back from almost every one of them was that people were delighted to be out here on. the Saint John waterfront, “said Gracewood.” So I think people have been waiting for this for a long time. We’re more than happy to be able to deliver a great product.
The place, surrounded by large shipping containers, looks familiar from previous years.
But the pandemic restrictions have resulted in several changes.
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Seats for spectators are limited to groups or “pods” of a maximum of ten people. Only about 800 people are allowed in the room.
The village of popular vendors is absent. Food and drink orders are purchased through a cashless system via mobile devices rather than queuing customers.
Gracewood said each capsule is equipped with a QR code where festival revelers can view menu items and have them delivered.
The 2021 festival has been dubbed a waterfront concert series, which will be held on Friday and Saturday nights for five weekends until August 14. Previous festivals were held exclusively during the New Brunswick Day long weekend in August.
Gracewood said organizers have been planning a return of a live festival for over a year.
âIt’s amazing to see the site come to life,â said Gracewood. âIt’s like going from 2D to 3D. I think this is a huge achievement and I think it is a testament to the people of New Brunswick and how we have behaved over the last 16 months or so.
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The artists also appreciate the opportunity to come back on stage.
Jessica Rhaye from Saint John is scheduled to perform with her band, Jessica Rhaye and The Ramshackle Parade on Saturday.
She said her group had largely avoided booking shows online during the pandemic, but rather often musicians need feedback that only a live audience can provide.
âI love to play music with my band, with my friends,â Rhaye said. âSo all the opportunities we’ve had to play together are always fun. And it’s going to be a lot of people here tonight, so it will be great to see faces to play for.
Gracewood said six of the ten shows have sold out so far.
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