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Kitchen party vibe makes Maritimes a great place to see live music this summer

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MONCTON, N.B. - If good times and great music are your idea of an ideal vacation, you might want to consider a trip to the Maritimes this year.

From mid-June to late fall there is no shortage of music festivals throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

The festivals offer every style of music and range from small, intimate shows with upcoming artists to international stars on concert stages drawing tens of thousands of fans.

Doug Gallant, who has written about music in the region for many years for The Guardian newspaper in Charlottetown, says people will get a good mix of music and east coast hospitality at any of the events.

"The festivals have developed a really good reputation for well run events," he said.

While many of the music festivals have been running for more than 20 years, Gallant said that the calibre of international stars wanting to perform in the region has risen dramatically in the last few years.

"When the economic crisis hit in the United States, a lot of promoters began looking for new places for their artists to perform," he said. "The first year that the Rolling Stones played Moncton and drew over 80,000 people, other promoters decided this region was a destination they needed to look at."

While many of the festivals haven't unveiled their line-ups yet, the Cavendish Beach Music Festival in P.E.I. has announced its headliners will include Kenny Chesney and the Dixie Chicks.

The three-day country music festival set for July 5-7 is held in picturesque Cavendish with nearby beaches and camping, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence as the backdrop.

Past performers have included Reba McEntire, Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw.

"You come for the music and then you get enveloped in the P.E.I. tourism summer experience," said festival president Jeff Squires.

"We want people to come here for more than one day and be completely involved in the experience."

If new music is more your style, Halifax Pop Explosion offers genres from hip hop to punk, from folk to indie rock.

The festival, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2012, draws about 20,000 people over five days into 18 venues in downtown Halifax.

"You can get into all the festival shows over all five days for the price of one wrist band," said executive director, Jonny Stevens.

"The festival is unique in that we present bands before they blow-up internationally."

Artists including Arcade Fire and K'naan are among those who performed at the Halifax festival before becoming well-known.

This year's event is scheduled for October 22-26.

"There are 180 bands so there's bound to be something that everyone will love," Stevens said.

If you're looking for something more family oriented, Gallant recommends the Stan Rogers Folk Festival July 5-7 in Canso, N.S.

"You can go there with your kids, sit down in the fields at any one of a half-dozen different stages and hear really interesting stuff," he said. "It's a pure folk festival and artists love to play there."

This year's event will be kicked off with a Thursday night concert by Ricky Skaggs.

If you're looking for a chance to tap your toes, eat great food and learn a few things too, then The Celtic Colours International Festival in Cape Breton should be on your list.

Now into its 17th year, the festival is a celebration of the Celtic culture that has flourished in that part of Nova Scotia since Scottish settlers first arrived over 250 years ago.

"It's good, positive energy and happy music," said executive director Joella Foulds. "People have a really good time when they come here, and it's more than just the music."

There are also cultural events, community dinners and square dances across the island.

This year's line-up will be announced at the end of June, but past years have featured the likes of The Chieftains, Natalie MacMaster and The Barra MacNeils.

For Jazz and Blues there's the Dutch Mason Blues Festival in Truro, N.S. from August 9-11 or the popular Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Fredericton, N.B., from September 10-15.

Brent Staeben has been with the "Harvest" festival since 1993 and says the number and proximity of venues makes it unique.

"You can walk into the downtown of Fredericton with its historic riverfront setting and historic buildings and you will find yourself in the middle of a major, international festival," he said.

Over the years, the festival has featured a long list of Grammy award winners.

Staeben said Maritimers know how to stage a music festival.

"I think they are an extension of our culture in the sense of the Maritime kitchen party where everybody loves to let their hair down and have a good time with music."

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If you go...

This story touches on just a few of the larger festivals, but there are many more events in each Maritime province throughout the summer and fall.

It is best to plan ahead to ensure you can get tickets and hotel rooms or camping sites near the events you choose.

www.halifaxpopexplosion.com

www.cavendishbeachmusic.com

www.celtic-colours.com

www.harvestjazzandblues.com

www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca

www.novascotia.com

www.tourismpei.com

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