Sappyfest to continue this summer in Sackville

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Volunteers come on board to make sure event continues

Despite some financial struggles last year, planning is already underway for Sappyfest 2014 in Sackville, N.B.

Despite some financial struggles last year, planning is already underway for Sappyfest 2014 in Sackville, N.B.

SACKVILLE, N.B. – Summer in Sackville wouldn’t be quite the same without Sappyfest. So it’s not surprising that, despite the financial struggles festival organizers faced last year, a group of volunteers have jumped on board and are still ready to move forward and build on the event’s past successes.

“We wanted the festival to continue and we wanted it to continue in Sackville,” said Jeff MacKinnnon, a Sappyfest board member, at town council’s discussion meeting last Monday evening.

MacKinnon, who was asking for town council’s support for this year’s edition of the music festival, said with several of the longtime organizers/coordinators stepping down after last year’s event, the board has recently gone through a transition and a new executive was elected just this past December. These volunteers are working hard to ensure Sappyfest will go on this year and have planned the event once again for the long weekend in August (Aug. 1-3).

“I don’t want to be too dramatic here but it’s basically a make or break year for Sappyfest,” said MacKinnon.

He said this year the board will be treading more carefully with its financial situation, to ensure it doesn’t amass a debt similar to last year.

“We’ve developed a program that would work based on a bare-bones budget,” he said. “This year, we’re going to be careful not to overspend before the money is in our pocket.”

He said as funds come in from outside sources (government grants, private donations, etc.), the festival can then begin to add on more high-profile acts into its line-up.

Last year’s version of Sappyfest, the eighth edition of the indie music festival that sets up in the middle of downtown Bridge Street, was deemed a success from an organizational standpoint but didn’t do as well financially. With about $15,000 in debt hanging over their heads after the festival, organizers quickly brought forward a plan to pay off the bills. Called SappyForever, the project involved the selling of coffee table books to supporters at a cost of $100 each. It was a successful campaign, with plenty of supporters backing the fundraiser and clearing up the debt.

Sappyfest, founded in 2006 by Sappy Records, has grown exponentially since its inception – having moved from its original Lorne Street parking area where a couple hundred people showed up the first couple of summers to its current location on Bridge Street, where a mainstage tent is set up and the street closed off to make room for the 1,500 to 2,000 people who now attend the festival.

“This is when the festival really started to take off,” said MacKinnon of the move.

Sappyfest has fast become a welcome addition to the summer line-up in Sackville, helping bring tourist dollars into the community and an enlivened atmosphere to the downtown, along with the invaluable promotion that comes with the event each year.

“It’s become an economic engine centerpiece for Sackville businesses,” said MacKinnon, who said the local business owners look forward to the increased traffic on that weekend.

A report conducted by a Mount Allison University commerce class has shown that Sappyfest generates about $250,000 to $300,000 in economic activity, ranging from hotels to restaurants, gift shops, cafes, and more. Sappyfest also creates a number of jobs each summer.

MacKinnon also pointed out that the event is not only embraced by the town but the musicians themselves are always keen to return and play at Sappyfest each year because of the setting provided in Sackville, with the “friendly and congenial atmosphere” that shines through during the mainly volunteer-run weekend.

“The event is built on community engagement and partnerships,” he said.

MacKinnon said town council is being called upon again to offer support for the festival, both financially and with in-kind services.

“To make this festival work and to be successful, we need to continue to work together.”

Sappyfest board members will bring forward several requests for the May council meeting, including permission for the street closure and a noise bylaw exemption for the weekend. As well, the town will be asked to supply picnic tables, barricades and kiosks, and increase their RCMP patrols for that weekend, as has been done in the past. Along with a financial request, the town will be asked this year to consider the set-up and take-down of the mainstage tent as part of its contributions as well.


Organizations: Mount Allison University, Sappyfest board, RCMP

Geographic location: Sackville, Bridge Street, Lorne Street

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