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Revelree music festival aims to fill Bayfest void

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Cathy Dobson

The directors of Sarnia’s new Revelree Music Festival are huge music fans who like both country and rock.

Scott Palko and Cam Shipley say that, musically, next summer’s festival could go either way. It all depends on which world-class artist signs on the dotted line.

“To be entirely honest, we’re not focusing on one genre,” says Palko. “We’re looking at both rock and country options and hoping to make an announcement in the next six to eight weeks.

“At the moment, we don’t have a band.”

The two festival directors are working on behalf of a group of private investors interested in bringing a big outdoor music festival to Sarnia.

They were in a holding pattern until Sept. 14 when city councillors gave their blessing for Revelree to be held in Canatara Park.

“We’ve been working on this for 18 months already but now things are ramping up,” Palko said.

Bayfest, which rocked Centennial Park for 14 years, left a big hole in the summer entertainment lineup when it went on indefinite hiatus in 2013.

“We think that a cornerstone event like Bayfest is greatly missed,” said Palko who owns the local CCI Studio marketing firm. “Bayfest was a fantastic event for the community.”

Revelree is in no way affiliated with Bayfest, he added.

“We want to bring an all-ages festival that’s fresh and new. That’s why we chose Canatara Park,” said Palko. “Nothing like this has ever been done there before.”

Once a headliner signs on, several other well-known touring acts will be added to the festival lineup, as well as some local bands.

The secondary acts will be chosen based on how their music complements the headliner, Palko said.

Revelree’s tentative set for July 23 but that could change, depending on the schedule of the main act ultimately signed.

Palko and Shipley, a local insurance agent, are assembling a steering committee of volunteers to take on the job of organizing the one-day festival. They anticipate more than 400 volunteers will be needed for the entire event.

Revelree has the potential to attract as many as 20,000 to Canatara Park’s main field, making it Sarnia-Lambton’s largest outdoor entertainment event, the directors say.

“We want to make it an experience people from all over will enjoy,” said Palko. “We’ll have to see the feedback but if people want it, we could expand after the first year.”

The festival’s business plan calls for a portion of Revelree’s proceeds to go to a new charity called One Spark, which helps women who experience violence to rebuild through entrepreneurship.

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