Photo: Romi Mayes (Facebook)
The physical size and amenities of Hilltop allows room for social distancing
By Don Norman
With all the event cancellations we’ve been hearing about, there’s finally some good news for music lovers in the area. The Hoot Owl Festival, that is normally held near Kerry, Manitoba, has decided to move their event to the Hilltop Resort by Grand Marais on August 20-23. The move was necessary because, while the former site of the festival was a quaint little venue with a great stage, great site lines, and on-site camping, it is a little small and with social distancing being a factor, it would have made things difficult to continue.
“When Covid hit we largely put things on hold to monitor the situation,” said festival organizer, Kevin Repay. “We almost cancelled. We know this has been a difficult time for many businesses, not just festivals, and we have been seeing other safe and successful spiritual events, markets, and patios, as well as gatherings at beaches, parks and malls, reasonably navigating the provincial regulations so we pivoted to make the most of the situation, responsibly.”
That “pivot” required a new venue and the local gem in our own back yard, literally fit the bill. “Hill Top Resort is such a beautiful venue with the right infrastructure and amenities to safely accommodate us,” said Repay. “Certainly the size was a big factor; we now have more acres than attendees, with thousands of campsites, so attendees can be spaced appropriately.”
Repay said they take the threat of Covid very seriously and are doing their part to make the event safe for everyone. “We have sought a number of consultations, at various levels, to explore all the necessary considerations,” said Repay. “The full plan is still a work in progress, and we will continue to monitor the situation and amend our process as appropriate,” he continued. One of the things they are doing includes offering personal protective equipment, available at the main gate(s), the entrance(s) to the festival bowl, and the entrance(s) to the stage. “We also have markings on the floor in higher traffic areas to help identify spacing, and tables instead of a dance floor to facilitate sitting with appropriate spacing,” explained Repay. He also notes that the festival campground is also sectioned to allow better site management. “We have a dedicated team that focuses on site safety, including providing support with regards to physical distancing. We are also constantly listening and welcoming any feedback and recommendations to help us maximize safety.”
In order to manage the crowd size, the festival will be capping their ticket sales. “Although the site capacity is around 20,000 people we are limiting tickets as we are working within the provincial regulations,” Repay explained. “We are expecting to sell 300-400 full festival passes and we will continue to monitor the reopening phases and manage attendance during the festival to ensure the availability of day passes as well.”
Hoot Owl Festival has a diverse music experience ranging from Bluegrass to Hard Rock and everything in between. They mainly focus on local artists. Not all of the artists that the Hoot Owl Festival had originally booked are available to play, so the organizers had to rejig things a bit. “We offer an incredible, diverse and inclusive range of sounds and performers who are eager to show everyone what they have been working on,” he said. The festival announced their full line up on Facebook Monday. The list includes: Invisible Friends, Romi Mayes Band, House Handshake, Apollo Suns, Bullrider, Erika Fowler, LLUX, Last Chance Gang, The 1221, Dustin Harder, Northern Royals, Thrill Thrill.
That same Facebook post noted that there are still about 90 tickets available.
For ticket information and for lineup updates, visit, (www.hootowlfestival.ca) or their social media pages (Facebook and Instagram @hootowlfestival).