The Ontario Festival of Small Halls Story
In August 2014, on a super moon weekend, the Ontario Festival of Small Halls story began. Inspired by the spirit of community, hospitality, exceptional music, and fun that has made small halls festivals in PEI and Australia such treasured events, the Ontario festival brought the talented and charming Old Man Luedecke to perform in three intimate, historically rich venues in Perth, Gananoque, and Bloomfield.
The festival expanded to 14 locations in 2015. First-rate performers like The Strumbellas, The Good Lovelies, Corb Lund, The East Pointers, Beòlach, Fortunate Ones, Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys, Kelly Prescott, and Rueben deGroot stepped off the big stage to travel to small towns around Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark County. They were ushered into historic buildings at the heart of some of Ontario’s most vibrant communities and greeted with all the warmth of a small-town welcome. The host organizations threw themselves into the festival. They put on community dinners and country markets. They sold tickets, decorated the halls, offered local openers, and spread the word. Twelve of the festival’s 15 shows sold out, and the musicians delivered intimate, jaw-dropping performances complete with lots of laughter, foot stomping, storytelling, dancing, and downright musical magic.
This year, all of last year’s 14 host organizations were eager to welcome the festival into their communities again, and 35 halls applied to participate. The festival chose 24 halls based on their history, charm, and the enthusiasm of their volunteer force. They chose over 35 artists, including some international acts, for their talent and the fire of their stage presence.
The festival began with a vision of bringing big music to small places. Now, three years in, the festival is going strong, thriving on the outpouring of enthusiasm from musicians, communities, and audience members who have come together from across the world, across Canada, and across town to make the festival such a success.
The festival’s story is still unfolding, and you will have to stay tuned for the rest. But (spoiler alert) one thing is for sure: there will be many more unforgettable nights of music in well-loved spaces.