Its ability to stage live entertainment during the pandemic is the reason Bluewater Borderfest was able to assemble one of the top music lineups in Canada this year, says co-founder Mark Perrin
The three-day festival featuring all-Canadian talent runs June 23 – 25 in Centennial Park.
Sarnia’s first major music event of the year kicks off Thursday night with The Tea Party and Sam Roberts, with Skye Wallace and Sarnia’s Born Riot.
Friday night is co-headlined by Alessia Cara and Marianas Trench, with special guests Ryland James and Sarnia’s Coobie.
And Saturday features Our Lady Peace, with Finger Eleven, Sloan and Sarnia’s Aces High.
“We are extremely excited this group of artists is performing at BorderFest,” said Perrin who co-founded the event in 2017.
The festival was interrupted by COVID-19 but organizers worked hard to figure out how to provide live entertainment for Sarnians despite protocols and restrictions.
Their innovative ‘Rocking the Runway’ drive-in concert at Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport sold out in 2020. And in 2021, they staged OktBorderfest under the Blue Water Bridge with Kim Mitchell, Barenaked Ladies and The Glorious Sons.
“We didn’t always make money during the pandemic but it built our credibility,” said Perrin. “It showed we know what we’re doing and it definitely made booking easier for us this year.”
Luckily, OktBorderfest made “a little” to allow for investment in this year’s lineup, he said.
BorderFest fans have waited two years to see Our Lady Peace. The alt-rockers booked to play BorderFest 2020 when the music world shut down.
About 1,000 tickets had already been sold, Perrin said. “So when we started planning for this year, we built on OLP with Finger Eleven, then Sloan.
“It’s been a long time coming.”
Tickets went on sale March 16 and Our Lady Peace is the early big draw. VIP tickets for OLP and Finger Eleven sold out quickly. The park can accommodate about 10,000 per night, including 1,500 VIP concertgoers.
Perrin said the BorderFest committee was determined to book a top Canadian female act for Friday but found it challenging because fewer women are touring. Then lady luck shone down and everything clicked with Alessia Cara.
Cara is currently on a world tour with her third album and is strongly associated with her Disney hit song “How Far I’ll Go” from the movie Moana.
“A few of us on the committee have daughters who know Alessia’s music well and we’re very happy to be bringing her here,” said Perrin. “She’s an international superstar from Brampton and was a bit of a long shot.”
Ticket sales have been strong with more than 6,000 purchased at press time. Most buyers are from out-of-town, noted Perrin, who is executive director of Tourism Sarnia-Lambton.
“We’ve got people coming from as far away as Australia, Alaska, and B.C.,” he said. “A lot of Americans are buying them early. That’s just the point. We want to bring people here and we know the Sarnia crowd will make their purchases a little closer to the date.
“We feel that we’re putting Sarnia back on the map with the first music festival of the summer.”
WHAT: Bluewater BorderFest
WHEN: June 23, 24 & 25
WHERE: Centennial Park Sarnia
TICKETS: On sale now at www.BluewaterBorderFest.ca