The Boots and Hearts Endless Summer Series is wrapping up its final festival of the year at Burl's Creek Event Grounds this weekend.
Country music fans from all over the province have converged on the Oro-Medonte park, located just north of Barrie, to hear Canadian country artists like Dallas Smith, Tim Hicks, and the James Barker Band.
Karen Hopkins, an on-site media co-ordinator, says Burl's Creek staff are quite pleased with the attendance at Boots and Hearts events this summer.
“I think we’ve done quite well with the restrictions (in place due to the pandemic)," said Hopkins. "People are excited to have live music available and have a wonderful venue like Burl's Creek where they can enjoy the show and have the necessary distance.".
This weekend’s event is shaping up to be the busiest one of the year, Hopkins said Friday night prior to headliner Dallas Smith taking the main stage.
“This is probably what we had for the Our Lady Peace weekend a few weeks ago, and we will have more people coming in (today) and maybe even Sunday. I think this is going to be the busiest weekend,” she said.
Being able to camp and enjoy live music is putting smiles back on people's face, Hopkins says.
“It’s sheer joy and happiness. The fans are excited to see friends that they haven’t seen, which they typically see at these festivals. The energy you get from live music is something we’ve all missed from festival-goers to staff,” she said.
The camping component is vital for many, she added.
“People are thrilled to be able to camp on-site because it adds to the experience beyond the music. They play with friends, they play games, they camp under the stars, and we are lucky to have this venue to do it,” Hopkins said.
There have been no issues with the COVID protocols, and everyone has been keeping safe while attending Burl's Creek events, Hopkins says.
“The way it’s set up in the entertainment space there is enough room to spread out and masks need to be worn when you are moving in and out of different areas and also in line when you are waiting for food or the restrooms,” she explained.
As the sun sets on the summer season, Hopkins says the focus has already turned to next year.
“This year has been awesome to have the spread-out weekend events, and it’s been great to host some of our Canadian music artists, but I definitely think people will be looking forward to the big Boots and Hearts weekend as it’s just an amazing experience,” Hopkins said.
“Right now, there is a lot of planning going on and a lot of work going into making 2022 Boots and Hearts amazing.”
Kirgan Heeney made the trip from Baxter to enjoy the Boots and Hearts Labour Day weekend event with several friends.
“I like that I run into all my friends when I’m here, we always have a good time,” he said.
Heeney has attended the other Endless Summer Series events this year, and he says it's been money well spent.
“Honestly, these Endless Summer events are some of the best times I’ve ever had,” he said.
Heeney says he has felt safe at the events, and he credits Burl's Creek staff for making sure everyone is following COVID protocols.
“I feel like the protocols are perfect, they are not too hard on us, but they are doing a good job keeping everyone safe,” he said.
While Heeney is more than happy with his experience, he says there is room for improvement when it comes to the campsites.
“They should offer some garbage cans so people can throw out their drinks instead of leaving a big mess at the campsites. I do like that they are making some effort with that by handing out garbage bags,” he said.
“I think they could have left more room in between campsites at an event like this while the pandemic is going on.”
Heeney is hopeful that Boots and Hearts will use the same format next year by hosting multiple events instead of just one grand spectacle.
“I prefer the three events spread out, it’s a way better set up. You can pick which concerts you go see, and it’s a little more low-key instead of having one big event,” he said.
Roxanne Tremblay from Barrie was also enjoying the Boots and Hearts atmosphere this weekend with a small group of friends.
Like Heeney, Tremblay has also attended the other Boots and Hearts Endless Summer Series event this year.
“This is my first time camping, but it does feel like a tamed version compared to a regular Boots event,” she said.
“This event feels more personable, and it feels like you have more opportunity to interact with the people in your group.”
Tremblay says she never feared the threat of COVID-19 at the event because of the strong protocols in place.
“We are outside, we stay with our own group, and we have been using the sanitization stations,” she said.
“I’m double vaccinated and I’m safe about it. If you take care and stay in your bubble then you will be OK.”
While Tremblay was enjoying the camping experience, she says there is room for improvement on that end.
“They could always add more washrooms, and the fact that we are throwing all our empties into the garbage is really troubling to me. I wish we could recycle properly as they do at the Mariposa Folk Festival, it would be nice if this event was more eco-friendly,” she said.
Next year, Tremblay is hopeful that Boots and Hearts will return to its regular one-weekend event.
“It depends where we are at with COVID and restrictions, but I personally like the big event and I think it’s fun to see all the people, it’s a big wow factor,” she said.
“This is better than nothing, and after having all the lockdowns over the last couple of years we just want to let loose and have fun, and this is the perfect event to do so safely.”