Letter to the Editor: Next steps for Westfest

Dear Editor,

Thank you for breaking this news, you guys are a first-class community newspaper and we’ve always appreciated how you tell Kitchissippi’s story. As the founder and producer of Westfest, I want to thank the community, businesses, our sponsors and partners for their continued outpouring of love and support. We are profoundly touched by it all. We have received hundreds of phone calls, emails, Facebook messages and visits from so many of you, all with the same positive message, that you love Westfest. And guess what, Westfest loves you too!

The years collaborating with our community partners, the individual businesses, our sister art organizations and friends along Richmond road and in the village have made lasting memories that we will cherish always (we would be remiss if we didn’t thank Sheba Schmidt from West End Kids for her loving support and commitment to communication). We can’t thank the community enough for your dedication, involvement, support, participation and excitement for Westfest over the years.  We have weathered the storms, danced in the rain, listened to the music, and together, we have grown.

I wanted to write this letter to firstly, thank you all but more importantly, to tell you a little about our excitement for the future. As we move forward with our plans for a new host venue, we are stimulated and excited by what has become a real opportunity for growth and development. We dream of a space where families can bring blankets, lawn chairs, children, and dogs in tow to celebrate with us, all the while enjoying the plethora of Canadian art that we showcase during Westfest. We envision a kid zone like never before with more enhanced educational art opportunities for the young ones. We are planning an Indigenous food and art pavilion for you to explore and a way for us to pay tribute to the Algonquin people and roots of Kitchissippi. We are planning a healthy, diverse, and contemporary urban food truck zone. We want to continue to make room for our friends and long-time collaborators by providing an artisanal and small business park. AND we are ever serious about the wealth of creativity in our midst, our community, and will continue to give our voices a platform, dedicating our daytime programming on Saturday to a “community stage” and Sunday to a “youth stage” where everyone from senior dance troupes to concert bands from the local high schools and the local youth can showcase their talent and work with a professional stage team giving them all the opportunity to experience the highest levels of production. Lastly, we will invite you all, once again, to join us for our award winning main stage programming that will host a continuing line-up of some of Canada’s most beloved acts, I mean we need to get Buffy Sainte-Marie back here right? Seriously, how many countries can boast a 74 year old, internationally decorated, and dynamic force such as her?

Westfest belongs in Kitchissippi Ward, your letters and outpouring of concern, have made this abundantly clear. And so it is on the heels of your community strength and vitality that we’ve started the exciting project of re-housing the festival with our mandate in our heart: FREE ART FOR ALL.

We have begun negotiations with a few sites in the ward, all green, lush, open, safe spaces, both private and public, and we are excited by the possibilities out there and by the enthusiasm we’ve seen from our potential new host partners. Westfest will take place on the same weekend as always, June 11 and 12, 2016 and will remain FREE. We are not about charging the people for what we do, we are about exploring, promoting, and programming opportunities so that the community can express itself and experience 100% Canadian multi-discipline art without boundaries.

As we move into the future, we would like to open more opportunities for people to get involved and partner with Westfest. If you are a community artist, home based business, artisan, or craftsperson and have always wanted to be involved with Westfest, now is your chance. We would love to include you and will be promoting details about all of this very soon, please stand by and go to our website or Facebook pages for continual updates as we concretize details. We look forward to sharing our developments with you so stay tuned as we believe that we’ve got something magical brewing and can’t wait to show off our new festival and celebrate with you. It is hard to deny all that we have done together and how we have carved our place on Ottawa’s cultural landscape. Let’s see where this new chapter brings us. The sky is the limit! See you all June 11-12, 2016.

Elaina Martin
Founder and producer, Westfest

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