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Incredible venues are home to amazing shows

Running a successful arts festival isn’t just about presenting great art; it’s also about embracing the place where the art is being seen and heard.

At least, that’s part of the reason the Huntsville Festival of the Arts (HFA) has been thriving for more than 30 years, says executive director Dan Watson. “Huntsville has so many amazing places to perform and exhibit, and we make full use of that.”

The Algonquin Theatre is one of the stars of the show. This summer it will host some of the festival’s biggest stars, including Jim Cuddy (Aug 18) and Celtic sweethearts Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy (July 19).

The theatre can also host intimate shows, such as a candlelit solo performance by piano virtuoso Kyung-A Lee (Aug 10), as well as more raucous fare like a drag queen show which takes place during the first annual Cottage Country Drag Festival (July 26-28). The festival will also feature a drag king show at Canvas Brewery, and a drag brunch at Huntsville Brewhouse.

As the festival has grown over the years – there are now events year-round – Dan and his team have also started programming shows in out-of-town venues. The Etwell Concert Series is a covered, outdoor venue in the lush hills a few kilometres to the west. This summer, it will ring to the amazing sounds of blues virtuoso Garret T. Willie (July 14). To the east, there are several shows happening in the barn at Hillside Farm, including More Barn: The Music of Neil Young (July 29 and 30), and Shania Twink (July 31), Canada’s best all-queer country cover band.

“Our theme this year is We Got You Covered, and we’re really showcasing what happens when one artist interprets the music of another,” says Dan. That includes tributes to the music of Billie Joel, Patsy Cline, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles, as well as two shows by Dwayne Gretzky (July 5 and 6), a group that has practically redefined the term “cover band.”

Other festival events take over the entire town, including the Huntsville Art Crawl (June 1-30), a display of painted canoes inspired by Emily Carr (July 10-14), and the ever-popular Nuit Blanche North (July 20).

The best way to stay on top of all this – and to enjoy superb perks – is to become a Friend of the Festival. “Friends get 15 percent off all tickets, advance access, and invitations to exclusive free events,” says Dan.

TEXT A. WAGNER-CHAZALON

www.HuntsvilleFestival.ca

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