Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Music buffs jazzed about flying to festivals

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At the same time as I was reading about the magnificent success of the 40th annual Winnipeg Folk Festival, I saw an article from England that had British lobbyists pushing for more money to promote music tourism.

Immediately after, while visiting family in Calgary, we decided to spend a day at that city's annual folk festival. Situated in a park area along the Bow River, it became clear from the amount of work done to improve the grounds after the floods that it was an important priority to help lift people's spirits and get the economy moving again.

This is a branch of the industry that seems to generate massive economic benefits for the regions that host them.

It's a sector of the tourism industry that often flows under the radar, but not for those music buffs that follow specific musicians or music styles.

While size matters, and big events like our Folk Festival have wide appeal, for communities like Minnedosa, the recent Rockin the Fields festival drew 2000 visitors a day, which I am sure provided an excellent boost to the community as well.

Every year numbers of people ask me about the music events they are interested in attending, from the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, to some of the better-known events in Europe and beyond.

The first music festival to draw worldwide attention was the Woodstock Festival, which took place on this very weekend in 1969.

Notwithstanding its stellar line up of musicians, it was the publicity around sex and drugs that seemed to shadow the image of that muddy weekend.

As successful as Woodstock was in attracting people, it was the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival that drew up to 700,000 revelers to an equally outstanding array of performers including Canada's own Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.

The numbers were so huge the event disturbed the small island's residents and perhaps delicate ecology so much that Great Britain passed a law that prohibited gatherings like this beyond 5000 attendees.

That was long ago rescinded as the government learned how impactful events such as these are in attracting tourists to destinations they recognize need greater development.

It's difficult to highlight the best of the best because of variances in music tastes and destination preferences but the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival would be near the top of my list.

Adding $300 million annual to the New Orleans economy, for them it is nearly as important as Mardi Gras itself. (http://www.fest300.com/festivals/new-orleans-jazz-heritage-festival)

When it comes to jazz, Canada takes a back seat to no one.

At the Montreal International Jazz Festival fully one-third of its 2.5 million attendees are tourists.

Over 3000 of the world's top performers in the genre fill the indoor and outdoor venues where the festival is held near the end of June every year. (www.montrealjazzfest.com)

City streets are closed off and tickets for the indoor venues are sold out well in advance.

One of the largest festivals in Europe had an interesting beginning as a project of two high school students in 1971; today it is run by a non-profit foundation with the goals of promoting music, culture and humanism. All its profits are donated to charities.

Whatever its goals, approximately 100,000 adherents annually show up to cheer the mix of Nordic and worldwide famous musicians. (http://roskilde-festival.dk/)

Where there are people, corporations are bound to want to be there as well.

Previously known as Quilmes Rock, named after its first sponsor, the largest music festival in Argentina is now called the Pepsi Music festival.

It takes place in Buenos Aires at its huge stadiums over a 10 day period. (http://www.pepsimusic.com.ar/) Flying even further afield the Fuji Rock Festival is one of the largest in Japan.

Held at the end of July, it is a three day event organized by an organization perhaps appropriately named Smash Japan.

It is marketed as Japan's biggest outdoor music festival and it takes place at a venue located at the Naeba Ski Resort in the Niigata Prefecture (province) of Japan.

Tickets can be purchased through http://www.concertboom.com/fuji-rock-festival/tickets-2014/

While the heady days of its first festival have never returned, the Isle of Wight still hosts around 60,000 visitors to its shores annually to enjoy the surroundings and great entertainment over 4 days in June.

To enjoy a piece of music history this may be the festival you may want to attend. (http://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk)

And if more music festivals have piqued your interest and you are not sure exactly where the beat of your musical heart wants to lead you, check out the comprehensive listing of options on Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_musifestivals)

From Africa to Asia and from North America to South America there are over 500 locations to choose from, with a helpful description of the size and duration of each.

Many are small and community oriented but it is clear that the mega music festival is still going strong in a number of countries. A few of them actually are combined in two cities at one time.

Like Montreal's International Jazz Festival, many bring talent to the downtown areas offering free entertainment to those who can't or won't attend the set shows.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com . Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found on www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 17, 2013 E2

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