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Summerfest 'brings a little bit of everything'

What may have been Sudbury's last Summerfest attracted large crowds over the weekend to see a wide range or music that ranged from country singer Gord Bamford to reggae-rock band Big Sugar.
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Reggae-rock band Big Sugar headlined the Saturday night concert at the 2014 Sudbury Summerfest. The 17-year-old festival will not return in 2015 due to a strained relationship between organizers and the City of Greater Sudbury. Photo by Marg Seregelyi.
What may have been Sudbury's last Summerfest attracted large crowds over the weekend to see a wide range or music that ranged from country singer Gord Bamford to reggae-rock band Big Sugar.

“It's been wonderful,” said Chris Nerpin, a spokesperson for festival who also sits on its volunteer board. “There is something here for everyone to enjoy.”

In addition to musical acts, both local and national in scope, the festival featured a number of carnival rides, children's entertainment and even a water ski show on Ramsey Lake.

But the 17-year-old festival may have celebrated its last birthday.
“The board is not organizing a festival next year,” Nerpin said.

Despite a strong turnout throughout the weekend, he said the festival's difficult relationship with the city has discouraged the board from continuing next year.

But Nerpin said Summerfest is not necessarily dead.

“If council leads the city to have a more collaborative and open conversation with organizers of these festivals, perhaps something will happen,” he said.

Summerfest organizers, who are all volunteers, have said the City of Greater Sudbury has made it too difficult for them to navigate red tape around a variety of bylaws and codes of practice.

Last summer, for example, Sudbury Summerfest organizers got into a dispute with the city about whether or not they could have use of the amphitheatre's office space. They still weren't able to use it even after involving city councillors.

Organizers also learned at the last minute in 2013 that they'd have to pour beer into plastic cups instead of just handing out cans, which city staff said could become projectiles.

At this year's event, Nerpin said Big Sugar's front man, Gordie Johnson, had to disappoint a large crowd when he broke the news they would not be performing an encore.

The band's set finished shortly before midnight, which is the city's cut-off time for live music outdoors. After backstage conversations with organizers, the band determined an encore was out of the question.

In a June interview with Northern Life, Réal Carré, the City of Greater Sudbury's leisure services manager, admitted municipality could do more to make things easier for groups hosting events on city property.

But the city has also supported Summerfest with municipal grants and loans.

Last year, for example, the end-of-summer event received a $15,000 grant and an $85,000 loan from the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation.

Jonathan Migneault

About the Author: Jonathan Migneault

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