This cold weather spell we’ve been enduring has me harkening back to last summer. Recently, I’ve found myself reliving the good times, the late nights, and the lazy mornings. As I drift into a haze of summer memories I find myself tempted to wax poetic about how welcoming the sun felt on my face but then I remember that I’m not actually the season’s biggest fan. I adore fall but summer and winter force me to be either hot or cold, I prefer neither. Nevertheless, the summer of 2014 was quite special for me.
It was the summer after my first year at Carleton and I was high on the idea of having a real vacation for four full months. Well, except for work of course, a student has to gain life experience somewhere. Aside from my varied career ventures, I made sure to schedule myself some time for fun. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with that “me time” – attend my first music festival.
I grew up in Ottawa so I’ve been exposed to a large amount of culture just because of my proximity to the capital but I had never been to a formal music festival. The orchestra, yes; the ballet, certainly; an indie folk band concert at the NAC, check – yet I never had the festival experience, until 2014. So, when tickets went on sale for Bluesfest I jumped at the chance to attend and I was definitely one of those people frantically refreshing their computers in an attempt to get a discounted full pass wristband. After about fifteen minutes of tension I broke through the online rush, within seconds I had checked out a festival pass and I was on my way to Bluesfest!
Then came the technical difficulties: commuting and directions. Despite living here for my entire life I had no idea where LeBreton Flats was located except I did, once I realized it was right in front of the War Museum. I was simply unaware that that was what that field is called. The Flats are decently far from where I live in the suburbs but my heart was set on going to a variety of performances so I made the trek regardless of the hours of commuting involved.
Throughout the duration of the festival I took many a bus ride to the Flats, sometimes the bus was full of fellow music lovers. At other times businesspeople would wander on the 95 in the midst of an important call looking mildly annoyed with the entire world. Tourists would often get lost in the sea of us Ottawa folk.
I’ll never forget the first time I set foot on LeBreton Flats territory for Bluesfest, it was magical, a real transformative moment, at least it was for me. The beat of the music was resonating through the ground and everyone seemed so alive, a theme that continued throughout the days of the festival. That was the real start of my summer.
Oddly enough it was while I was losing myself in throngs of people going to see Blake Shelton or Lady Gaga that I felt a deep kinship to Canada. It may not seem very nationalistic going to see artists from the USA perform but it was the all around atmosphere of community and connection that made me bubble with pride for being Canadian. That sense of togetherness is who we are – everybody fits – sometimes whether we want them to or not – but somehow they do fit.
And that’s the feeling I’m afraid of losing because LeBreton will soon be changing and I fear that those changes will cause some of its main attractions to lose some of their heart. It was announced yesterday by the National Capital Commission that four plans for the redesign of the LeBreton Flats location are being considered. At least, each group has been granted $75, 000 to create more detailed plans for their potential redevelopments. Yes, concert venues and entertainment spaces figure into the ideas that have been put forward but I’m not sure that big fancy buildings and stadiums will really do the location any good.
In 2014 I felt that Bluesfest was good and it was pure. I can still remember standing outside under the stars as Young the Giant played off by the water and The Band Perry jammed on the main stage. I stood still, eyes closed, just taking it all in, and I felt whole. I felt as if I was a part of something bigger. I don’t think I would feel that way in “a major event centre” as quoted from the RendezVous LeBreton Group’s proposal for the redesign.
I wonder if I will ever be able to have a summer like 2014 again. I wonder what the future holds for the that wonderful patch of grass outside the War Museum and most importantly, I wonder why LeBreton Flats cannot be left alone.