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Astrolabe Days proves successful

A unifying celebration for the region after a challenging year

Shanneyganock performing during Port aux Basques Astrolabe Days on Saturday evening, Aug. 5. – Courtesy of © Andrew Parsons

By Jaymie L. White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES – Astrolabe Days, which took place from Aug. 4-7, offered a new and exciting format to help bring the community together. “We normally have Astrolabe Days, but we renamed it to an Astrolabe Festival because we wanted to do a concert for the town, and going forward, we’re going to try to do that every year now,” said Town Clerk Nadine Osmond. The concert featured many big names in Newfoundland music, including Merrymaker, Randy Matthews and Shanneyganock featuring Bud Davidge, and that talent drew a massive crowd keen to experience the first official Astrolabe Festival outdoor concert. The decision to bring in outside talent carefully considered beforehand. “Shanneyganock expressed interest in coming here to do a concert since they were involved with the fundraising event down in St. John’s for Fiona. So they said that they would like to come to the town at some point and do something, then for a while, we were uncertain if we were going to have enough people (performers or volunteers) to pull it off,” said Osmond. “Then we were trying to get a couple other well known artists or well known performers to come in as well, but who still had a little bit of a local appeal. So since Randy Matthews was from here, and Vanessa’s band – Vanessa is from the Codroy Valley area.” The ball field near St. James High School was completely transformed into a concert venue, a feat that took a significant amount of volunteer time and effort to accomplish. “We probably could have started organizing the festival several months ago, but the last couple of months we didn’t have a co-ordinator,” said Osmond. “We had a co-ordinator for the Come Home Year, so that made a difference. For next year, then we’ll try to get somebody in place. We spent the last couple of months going over some details, and for a while we weren’t sure if the music was going to be totally confirmed. There were some ifs for a while, but once we knew everything was confirmed, then it was full speed ahead. It took a full week to get the field ready.” The committee had a small number of volunteers that were involved from the start. “Then we got (Town) council involved, and then we called some of our people that we know were regular bartenders, some people that have done security for us in the past for Come Home Year,” said Osmond. “We had a couple of food vendors. We had somebody commit and drop out a couple of days before, which was unfortunate, but the other person (Tanya English) she wished she had a little bit more time, but she was willing to go ahead, and I believe she had a good response. I think she’d be interested in doing it if we have another one, so that’s something that we can do going forward. We can try to have a few more food vendors as well. This was a new area for us to put off a festival like this, because for Come Home Years, it’s always been downtown, and I think people liked the field set up, as far as I know.” The main reason the ball field was chosen was because of vehicles. “We were concerned about parking because downtown has limited parking, and we thought there might have been a little bit more parking facilities up there with all the schools in the area because there are schools and churches, so we figured it might accommodate parking a little bit better,” said Osmond. Despite the size of the event, there was no additional cost to taxpayers. “We had funding from corporate sponsorships. We get money from Canadian Heritage every year to put off the Astrolabe Days because Astrolabe Days is tied into the history of Port aux Basques,” said Osmond. “We also got money from Department of Tourism. We got money from the Atlantic Lotto Corporation, and then Marine Atlantic and Matador (Mining) were our two big sponsors. Then we had Canadian Tire and Mary Brown’s, so all of those corporate sponsorships helped offer this as a free concert. If we continue to get the same amount of corporate sponsorships, hopefully we can continue to offer it for a free concert, but if we do charge, we’ll try to keep it minimum.” The concert was held from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., which is when Randy Matthews finished his set. “Rain was kind of at that uncomfortable stage of the rain, but it was still like about a hundred or more people in front of the stage right up to the very end when Randy was performing, so they didn’t mind it,” said Osmond. “We passed out the bracelets and part of what the bracelets were for was to confirm that the people were 19 for the younger group that attended, but it also helped us determine the amount of people there as well, because we went through two boxes of the bracelets. There was, throughout the night, we’re estimating around 1,800 (attendees), and it may have been a little bit more than that.” Osmond has heard solid positive feedback thus far. “The three bands totally enjoyed themselves when they came here, and we’ve heard all good comments from people attending the performances. I don’t think we had any long lineups at the ticket booths or the bar, so I don’t think there was anything really negative, everybody enjoyed it, and I think everybody needed it.” A few names for the next festival are already being discussed. “We’ve thrown around a few names because some of the bands that do this full time for a living, some of them are booked a year in advance. The Navigators were mentioned, a band called Signal Hill was mentioned. We’ll probably have another planning session soon, probably by September,” said Osmond. “We’ll look at things that we need to improve, things we can change, and we’ll look at some possible music lineups and see who we can get. We’ll need a headliner, so we’ll try to at least get a headliner confirmed soon and work on an opening and closing act as well.” Natalie MacIsaac was a committee volunteer, and she is proud of the way it turned out. “We had an amazing team, an amazing committee. The crowd itself was outstanding. Everybody came in. Everybody had a good time. They had a ball. Every report I’ve had, people come up to me like, ‘Oh, my God, thank you guys so much. It was great. We loved it’.” MHA Andrew Parsons (Burgeo – LaPoile) also attended and believes the festival was exactly what the community needed. “I’m extremely pleased with how it all turned out. I mean, it’s something we’ve been talking about for months and months, and there was a lot of planning and effort that went into it. Just to see everything, I thought it went as good as it could have. There was a huge turnout. The bands were great, and I think everybody had a good time. I’m already looking forward to figuring out next year’s,” said Parsons. “The sound was great and I know there was some concern from parents whose kids are going to be playing on the field, but I don’t think that was enough not to use it, and I’m sure the field will be in great shape for when they play.” Parsons says the residents seemed eager before the concert. “It seemed all week, like it really seemed like there was a sort of sense of excitement and a sense of buzz. If anything, I think we as organizers were just really keeping an eye on the forecast every day because you can do everything you want, but, I mean, what do you do in that situation,” said Parsons. “But when you got there that night and just the turn out early and see a plugged field, it just felt great. I think everybody really came and had a great time, loved the acts. There was a huge buzz around the place, and even the next day, just people sharing pictures and talking about how much fun they had, it was awesome.” Having this concert, especially after Fiona and all the heartbreak the Southwest coast has experienced, made it even more special. “The Astrolabe Days were always a really nice event, but it felt like there was a certain part lacking to it, and I think this helps to complete it. It’s a great few days of various events for kids right up to all ages, and I think this was the clincher,” said Parsons. “We all sat around the next day and I think the impression we all were left with was that it was a fabulous event and only made the Astrolabe Days better and even then just little things like having the discoverers of the Astrolabes there and get to recognize them in front of so many people was a great touch.” Resident Doreen Lane echoed Parsons’ feelings. “In my opinion the concert was awesome and went over very well. It was just what our town needed after Fiona,” said Lane. “I can’t say there was a best part because we enjoyed all of the entertainers, but seeing Shanneyganock for the first time and my grandson, Connor, meeting Chris Andrews who was kind enough to let him take a selfie and have a little conversation. This was such a special moment in his life. This was an awesome performance where adults and children got to enjoy time together. This event, in my opinion, lifted the spirits and enabled people to come together and enjoy themselves and put their worries of Fiona aside for the evening.”

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