Interview with Eliza Wolfe, Harvest Music Festival
Can you tell me a little bit about how and why your organization began?
Harvest Music Festival began in 1991 with the purpose of bringing jazz and blues acts to Fredericton, New Brunswick. The festival was started locally by a group of community volunteers.
Has the organization grown significantly since it began?
The festival has grown significantly in the past 30+ years. What started out as a grassroots festival, run by volunteers, has turned into Atlantic Canada’s largest festival experience. In 1991, Harvest lasted for 4 days, had approximately 9,500 patrons, 25 musical acts and 17 venues around downtown Fredericton. Harvest has since expanded to 6 days, hundreds of performers, and dozens of stages. In 1993, the first big top tent went up, and Harvest would eventually see venues such as the Blues tent, the Mojo tent, Blues Court, the Barracks tent, and the Playhouse. Harvest is the time when Fredericton truly comes alive, and people travel across the Maritimes, as well North America, just for the festival.
What is your role in the organization and what is the structure?
I am the Marketing & Communications Assistant. Our staff is composed of six people: Jeff Richardson, General Manager; Josh Steeves, Sales Manager; Lucas Hicks, Operations Manager; Brendan MaGee, Production Manager; and Sorcha Beirne, Safer Spaces Coordinator & Office Assistant. We also have an amazing Board of Directors. Our organization would be nothing without its volunteers. Harvest requires hundreds of volunteers every year, and the festival could not happen without these selfless, hardworking and dedicated individuals.
What types of services does your organization offer and who are the people who use or take advantage of your services?
Our service is to provide a world-class festival to Fredericton, as well as the broader East Coast, during the third week of September every year. It’s a festival experience with something for everyone! Whether you want to see an international headliner, or local talent, whether you feel like buying tickets, or taking in some of our vast free programming. Harvest is for everyone. So our service is to provide high-caliber music, of varying genres, to Fredericton residents and visitors. But Harvest is also about the community coming together, which is a service you can’t put a price on.
As a not-for-profit, what are your major fundraisers?
We rely heavily on the generosity of sponsors and, again, the kindness of volunteers.
What are the best ways to help your organization?
We’re always grateful to accept new volunteers. We find our volunteers love Harvest as much as we love them, as they keep returning year after year for the live music, the people, and to give back to the community. Volunteering at Harvest is a great way to not only ensure that everyone has a great time at the festival, but also to make new friends. Volunteer applications can be filled out on our website.
Sharing our posts on social media is also always appreciated. If you tag us in your posts at the festival, we might even share your posts!
Can you tell me about one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve had while working for this organization?
Personally, I love communicating to the public about our festival. I so enjoy helping build Harvest’s brand, making sure the community knows what they need to know to best enjoy the festival, creating visual material, learning about and listening to the artists, and promoting the shows. By far, the most rewarding part of working for Harvest is the week of the festival, itself. This is the time when all of our hard work culminates into a beautiful experience for everyone. I love being part of an organization that is able to facilitate live music in Fredericton. Raising the profile of the arts means a lot to me, and ensuring that everyone can be exposed to live music, in an accessible way, is something I’m very passionate about. I grew up going to Harvest, from infancy, to my teenage years, and now as an adult. Everyone has their own very special Harvest memories, and I love getting to facilitate that memory-making.
What kind of challenges has your organization encountered and how did you adapt to overcome them?
Bouncing back after COVID was a challenge, as it was for any business or any organization, or really any institution in any sector. But the live music industry was faced with many challenges as it, literally, is premised around congregating together in large groups to experience live performance. In 2020, Harvest pivoted quickly to a completely virtual format. Then, in 2021, Harvest took all the proper measures, and was ahead of the curve in requiring double vaccination, to ensure the safety of all of its artists, patrons, staff, volunteers and organizers. None of these decisions were easy, but the health and safety of our community is our number one priority.
If I were thinking about volunteering for a not-for-profit organization, what would you say to sway my decision to join your organization? What kind of impact can volunteers have within your organization?
I would say that, while volunteering is a selfless act, there are so many personal benefits for giving of your time. Volunteering is such an excellent way to give back to your community and to build community. So many of our volunteers testify that they have made lifetime ties and friendships from volunteering at Harvest. What sets Harvest apart is that, while you’re volunteering, you’re also exposed to live music. Volunteering takes lots of hard work but, at Harvest, you get to be surrounded by tunes and people! From greeting patrons at admissions to serving beer at the bar to selling artist merchandise, when you volunteer for Harvest, you’re helping patrons have a great time. Harvest absolutely would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of our volunteers.
Has your organization won any awards?
Yes, some of our awards include:
ECMA for Event of the Year Award – 2009
Maple Blues Award for Blues Booster / Industry Person of the Year Toronto Blue Society – 2000
Tourism Industry Association of Canada National Volunteer of the Year Award – 2005
Industry Builder Award – ECMA Moncton 2012.
Order of New Brunswick (Brent Staeben) – 2020.
What are you most proud of about your organization?
That we give people the chance to see music that they might not otherwise have the chance to experience. Music impacts people in a spiritual way, and we’re so lucky that we live in a community filled with people who are steadfastly committed to filling our city with live music.