Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pride and joy

Big crowds, music lineup attest to growing success of APTN's Aboriginal Day Live and Celebration at The Forks... and in Regina

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There are two sure ways to measure the growing success of APTN's Aboriginal Day Live and Celebration: the size of the crowds that turn out to see it, and the eagerness of performers who want to be part of it.

"It absolutely has grown over the past six years," says Sky Bridges, chief operating officer of the Winnipeg-based Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. "With the expansion of the celebration that happens during the day leading up (to the televised show), which we added last year, our audience doubled. And as it has gained recognition year after year for its increased production values and larger audiences, it has attracted artists.

"There's no question that it's getting easier to convince artists to perform, and to celebrate National Aboriginal Day."

This year, APTN will air 31/2 hours of live TV from two different stages -- one at The Forks in Winnipeg and one in Regina, at First Nations University of Canada -- showcasing more than a dozen acts leading up to a double-headliner concert closer by legendary singer/songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie (in Regina) and reunited (for one night only) First Nations folk-rockers Kashtin (in Winnipeg).

"The artists from last year were overwhelmed by how they were received and the size of the crowd that was there," says Bridges. "It amazes me how early we have people contacting the network to find out about this -- particularly the artists, because they see this now as an excellent place to launch their music and become known."

Last year's total turnout at The Forks was estimated at 30,000, says Bridges, with as many as 20,000 in attendance for the live-broadcast concert in the evening.

"The energy in the crowd was amazing," he says. "Just being there with such a large group of people, experiencing the same thing, and watching the interaction with the artists and the energy onstage -- it was pretty special.

"When I was looking out from the stage, just before we went to air, I could see that there were actually people sitting up on top of the parkade just to get a spot to watch the show. I have to tell you, it was an overwhelming feeling."

APTN stars Don Kelly (Fish Out of Water), Candy Palmater (The Candy Show) and Chantelle (Upload) will host the Winnipeg portion of Aboriginal Day Live and Celebration, with DJ/actress Crystle Lightning and producer/actress Jennifer Podemski handling hosting duties in Regina.

"It's a very ambitious show," Bridges says of Aboriginal Day Live and Celebration, which airs Saturday at 8 p.m. on APTN. "There is no other broadcaster that I am aware of that has a live simulcast of two locations, spanning the country in HD. It certainly is a challenge, and I'm not aware of a live production like this being done by anyone else in Canada. It's a lot of fun, and it's huge accomplishment for APTN.

"We started this show six years ago as a one-hour broadcast from Air Canada Park downtown, and it has grown into this 31/2-hour broadcast at The Forks with a full day of festivities leading up to it. It's something for Winnipeg to be proud of."

This year's event begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, with the opening of Celebration Village at The Forks. From noon to 5 p.m., activities ranging from skatepark demonstrations to an appearance by Canada's Got Talent winners Sagkeeng's Finest (with an expanded roster that prompted a name change to Sagkeeng's Dancers) will take place in the village.

The televised concert runs from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., with a large-scale fireworks display afterward to close out the evening.

Bridges explains that those who travel to The Forks to experience the event live will also be able to see the show-closing performance at the Regina site.

"We'll have the two stages, and the television show will be cutting back and forth between them," he says, "so if you're watching at home, you'll be able see the artists on both stages. But we'll also be airing the headliners to the audiences that are there on site, so people at The Forks will be able to see Buffy Sainte-Marie perform, and at First Nations University, they'll be able to see Kashtin on the big screens there."

Bridges adds that assembling the talent lineups for both locations was a simple matter of trying to create the most diverse and interesting show possible.

"It's a show for everyone," he says. "We have representation from Métis, First Nations and Inuit, and we have genres ranging from country to pop to contemporary styles."

He's particularly proud of having convinced Florent Vallant and Claude McKenzie -- a.k.a. Kashtin -- to put their act back together for this one-time reunion show.

"They've both moved on to different parts of their careers; Florent is actually a producer who creates content for APTN, so there is a relationship there," says Bridges. "That certainly played a part in it. We asked them if they were willing to come together to help celebrate National Aboriginal Day, and like a lot of aboriginal artists, the day means a lot to them. That's why we're seeing them back together."


Aboriginal Day Live and Celebration 2012

Hosted by Don Kelly, Candy Palmater and Chantelle (in Winnipeg) & Crystle Lightning and Jennifer Podemski (in Regina)

Featuring Christa Couture, Beatrice Deer, Indian City, Inez, Adam James, Joey Stylez and Kashtin (in Winnipeg); The Local Onlyz, Plex, Riva, Stevie Salas & Bernard Fowler, Samian and Buffy Sainte-Marie (in Regina)

Saturday at 8 p.m.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 21, 2012 D1

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