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Fringe Fest looks headed to record numbers

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Genevieve Pare (from left), Ryan Reese and Ian McFarlane promote their play The Hudson Bay Epic.

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John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press Genevieve Pare (from left), Ryan Reese and Ian McFarlane promote their play The Hudson Bay Epic. Photo Store

The curtain fell for the last time Sunday for this year's Winnipeg Fringe Festival.

The alternative theatre festival most likely finished its 27th year with record numbers, executive producer Chuck McEwen said, though he would only know after tallying the final numbers today. Saturday saw 10,614 tickets pass through doors, and 24 out of the 129 shows sold out.

"This year we're going to surpass last year's attendance numbers. Things have gone very well. We were very fortunate with the weather this year," McEwen said.

McEwen attributed the high attendance numbers to the notability of the festival in Winnipeg. Those who attend regularly bring in new people, who in turn become regulars themselves, he said.

"Word of mouth is still our best marketing tool. All it takes is for someone to come once," he said.

Performers also mostly praised this year's festival. Mesha Lovegood and Kai Jolley, both part of Snoopy! the Musical, said the quality of shows this year was consistently high, and the number of companies taking part was higher than previous years.

"There's a ton of more companies. There's a ton of more people involved (this year)," Jolley said.

Attendance at the central hub of the festival, in Old Market Square, seemed to be down from previous years, Jolley said, though Lovegood said the evenings still seemed busy. "At night... we couldn't even move, (but) only at nighttime," Lovegood said.

Attendees were also happy with this year's shows. Brennan Smith has attended the festival for a few years, and though he hasn't watched many shows, the ones he did see were good, he said. "The performances were awesome. It's been pretty consistent. I think there might be a bigger turnout this year," he said.

Jeff Martin, another attendee, chose the last day to go to see a show with his family. The draw for the family, he said, is to go to something different.

"It's not a movie, it comes once a year. It's something different," he said.

Work on next year's festival already started three weeks ago, McEwen said. He's hoping to improve the online portion, and maybe introduce a smartphone app for attendees.

"You always come across things you want to improve, so we're tracking (those)," McEwen said, adding they'll take in comments from patrons to then decide what to focus on. Most improvements will be made to the indoor components, the stages and venues, he said, rather than the outdoor, at Old Market Square.

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 28, 2014 A2

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Updated on Monday, July 28, 2014 at 7:11 AM CDT: Corrects headline

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