Diverse 70-day festival set to go in Charlottetown

More than 250,000 visits are expected to the site at Confederation Landing Park

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 28, 2014

Diverse, entertainment-filled 70-day festival set to go at Confederation Landing Park.

Canada is setting up shop in Charlottetown for 70 agenda-packed days and the busy crew at P.E.I. 2014 is buzzing.

Sue Urquhart is the director of programming. She is bubbling with enthusiam at the prospect of locals and tourists being treated to an onslaught of free entertainment for the July 1 to Sept. 7 run of the Celebration Zone.

“When I say something for everybody, I mean something for everybody,’’ she says. “It’s incredibly diverse and rich. It’s very, very exciting.’’

More than 250,000 visits are expected to the site at Confederation Landing Park; a fitting setting since, of course, this is where the Fathers of Confederation came ashore in 1864 on a voyage that eventually led to the creation of Canada.

Urquhart says the festival will offer a seven-day-a-week smorgasbord of food, theatre, music, culture and arts and crafts that captures many tastes, sights and sounds from all parts of the country.

There will be a host of headliners, like Canadian icons Burton Cummings and Buffy Sainte-Marie.

A 16-foot Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai will be transported in numerous pieces from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta. The dinosaur fossil will be reconstructed and put on display throughout that province’s designated week in the Celebration Zone.

Five other provinces — Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, B.C. and Saskatchewan — will also be providing a strong provincial flavor for one week each.

Urquhart says the six provinces on board represent all regions of the country. Artists, though, are coming from all parts of Canada with performers making their way to the Celebration Zone from Nunavut to Newfoundland and many points in between.

The Canada Pavilion will be up for the full 70 days with indoor theatre, a sports simulator, displays and artifacts, and the Great Canadian Trivia Challenge.

A second pavilion will offer plenty of interactive play for children with a Lego Building a Nation Station, arts and crafts, games area and an active living area.

Daily family programming will see some of the best children’s entertainers around like DuffleBag Theatre and Fred Penner. Workshops will also be put on for kids by dancers, magicians and even by a three-time world champion hula hoop dancer.

A daily schedule of events is available at www.pei2014.ca/celebrationzone.

Each Monday evening, the public can lay a blanket down on the grass or pull up a lawn chair to watch a Canadian movie under the stars on a large screen in the Celebration Zone.

The price tag for the big festival is, well, big.

But Penny Walsh McGuire, executive director of PEI 2014, is quick to note many have bought into the $5 million Celebration Zone.

The largest festival P.E.I. will likely ever see has the backing of three levels of government along with 14 corporate sponsors.

Walsh McGuire says P.E.I. 2014 looked at other large celebrations, paying particular attention to the Quebec City’s 400th anniversary package in 2008, to aid in modeling this major undertaking that will help mark the 150th anniversary of the historic Charlottetown Conference.

“We knew that we wanted to create a pavilion that showcased P.E.I. and Canada in a unique way right on the area where the Fathers of Confederation originally landed,’’ she says.

“It’s a significant undertaking to program a 70-day festival. We see lots of three day (and) five day festivals...the details are quite amazing.’’

Wendy Kane heads the Toronto-based event management company that won the contract for the festival.

Previous projects done by her company, including large events linked to the Vancouver Olympics and the 100th Grey Cup, pale in comparison to the Celebration Zone endeavor.

She describes the work involved as a huge undertaking that has required major collaboration with the City of Charlottetown, police, fire, liquor control, emergency personnel, as well as other professional services and suppliers of goods.

“It was a very grand plan,’’ says Kane. “It was very ambitious...they (P.E.I. 2014) had the wherewithal to dream big.’’

Physical construction of the site, which includes the Canada Pavilion, the Kids Pavilion and the Fathers Pub & Oyster Bar, is a 20-day process leading up to the official opening on Canada Day. The largest fire works in Canada will also help rocket the Confederation Zone out of the gates.

Kane says the picturesque site is ideal with its enclosed space that doesn’t impact traffic flow.

“The site itself allows us to be in the thick of things,’’ she says. “It’s a natural gathering place.’’

A maximum of 5,000 people will be allowed into the Confederation Zone at any one time to ensure a safe and comfortable experience.

Urquhart expects many people to make several trips to the site over the 70 days with so many new experiences available from one day to the next.

In total, programming will include more than 120 performing and visual artists, over 150 busker performances and in excess of 90 food demos and samplings.

Walsh McGuire says the biggest challenge for the programming team was picking through such a large talent pool on P.E.I. and across the country.

“Performers are calling our office wanting to be part of the celebration,’’ she says. “So you have to try to strategically figure out who fits where.’’