Sweetgrass Festival announces 2nd year

From left: Paul Pike, Nikki Laney, Samm Garnier of PDIFC are working hard to set up the 2nd Annual Sweetgrass Festival. – © Jasmine Jesso / Wreckhouse Press Inc.


Special to The Appalachian

STEPHENVILLE – Having to isolate from loved ones proved to be a serious hardship for some during the pandemic. For many people, socializing and regular outings have been severely curtailed, meaning physical and mental health have been compromised for the better part of the past two years.

People of the Dawn Indigenous Friendship Centre (PDIFC) along with The Town of Stephenville, The Red Cross and Qalipu First Nation will be working in partnership to host the 2nd Annual Sweetgrass Festival. The Festival’s first year in 2019 proved to be a huge success with strong participation. Thanks to COVID-19, the second year was cancelled.

“We would have done one last year if it weren’t for COVID,” said Paul Pike of PDIFC. “The intent is to try and do this every year.”

So far, barring any unforseen circumstances, this year is a go.

“We’re trying hard to get some youths more involved. The pandemic’s been hard on everyone, so mental health has taken a dip,” noted Samm Garnier from PDIFC. “It would be a good idea to get them out and involved.”

It’s more important than ever to pull together as a community, as evidenced by various federal and provincial government community incentive funding programs. Stephenville’s plan on August 20-22 is to try and do just that.

The Canadian Heritage Program offered to fund last year’s event and when that was cancelled the funds went unused. To shine a little light during the pandemic, the monies were allowed to be distributed to musicians and artists regardless, as the entertainment industry across the country and the province has taken a huge financial hit.

“In-person real events, I think there’s a real appetite for that,” said Patrick Park-Tighe, of the PDIFC. “Unfortunately there is also some justifiable caution about getting into groups again so we’re doing our best.”

With the mask mandate only just lifted by the provincial government, the timing is great to enjoy some long overdue fun through community activities.

“The Sweetgrass Festival will be held mainly outside,” confirmed Pike. “People are encouraged to bring a camp chair.”

Stephenville’s new Civic Plaza will be acting as a platform to share works by local artists and artisans. This will feature everyone from musicians, painters and other artists to Indigenous cuisine, a traditional dance exhibit, and Mi’kmaq language. There will also be a shed party, pancake breakfast, and Story Time with Qalipu First Nation.

Local musical talents such as Jason Benoit, Eastern Owl, Susan O’Quinn, Dave McHugh and more will perform. Organizers promise that there will be something for everyone, and participants and volunteers have done their best to work together to ensure the Sweetgrass Festival has an enjoyable and successful second year.

PDIFC, Civic Plaza and Blanche Brook Park will all host different events throughout the duration of the festival. More information on events and times are available on the group’s official Facebook page: @Sweetgrass Festival 2021.

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