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Blues Festival won't happen in 2023

Thunder Bay Community Auditorium general manager Trevor Hurtig says he wants to focus on getting the facility back to full capacity before venturing into outside events. He doesn't rule out a return in 2024.

THUNDER BAY — The Thunder Bay Blues Festival is a no-go for 2023.

However, Thunder Bay Community Auditorium general manager Trevor Hurtig said he’s not ruling it out down the road.

Hurtig said, for now, he wants to focus on getting the Auditorium back to full capacity before taking on any outside projects.

The Blues Festival was last held in 2019 and organizers had already announced it would be paused in 2020 before the pandemic struck, citing a lack of available touring artists willing to come to Thunder Bay.

“It’s just one of those things where we want to make sure that we’re back up at full capacity at the Auditorium before we take any extra risk with something like Blues Fest. Regrettably we’re not going to do it [in 2023], but we are looking at options for [2024],” Hurtig said on Thursday.

The Thunder Bay Blues Festival began in 2001 and ran through 2019, slowly evolving from a strictly blues lineup to a more rock-centric event, headlined by the likes of the Spin Doctors, Burton Cummings, Bryan Adams and Sheryl Crow in recent years.

Other big names to perform at the festival over the years include Ten Years After, Buddy Guy, Robert Randolph and the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

Hurtig said the possibility of a private promoter taking over the event, or something to fill that early July weekend slot, is on the table.

“It is a definite possibility,” he said. “Whether it’s actually Blues Fest or another event, we’re definitely interested in working with another group that might be interested in it and it’s something we’ve actually looked at, to some extent.

“I think that was always the case over the years, that perhaps we could partner up with a private group and make something happen and that’s still something that’s a definite possibility, even moving forward for the coming year.”

The city already has one multi-day music festival scheduled, with Tim Hicks and The Brothers Osborne signed to play the second annual Country on the Bay Festival at Fort William Historical Park next July.

Hurtig said he knows music lovers will be a big disappointed at no Blues Festival in 2023, adding he can relate.

“We’re fans ourselves and we definitely enjoyed doing the festival and wanted to make something happen. But at the same time, if you’re going to do something, you do it right and I think the key thing here is to make sure we get the Auditorium back to what people are comfortable with and used to and then we move forward with what we can do after that,” Hurtig said.

The Auditorium averaged 100 to 140 events a year pre-pandemic, but Hurtig estimated it is only doing about 70 per cent of those numbers in 2022.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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