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Published: August 11th 2011
It has been almost a weeks since we arrived back home in Wuhan and two weeks since we started the journey back from Sackville, New Brunswick. Guess it's about time to finish off my travel blogging for this last summer trip!
The last week in July found us heading back along the southern Gaspe coast by bus from New Carlisle to Pointe-a-la-Croix at the Quebec-New Brunswick border. The scenic coast is an anomaly in the province of Quebec, with English speaking towns interspersed along the way. The names give it away; New Richmond, Carleton, Chandler, Hope, etc. Although French is definitely the dominant culture, there is no shortage of English families that stretch back for several generations, starting with the arrival of Channel Island immigrants in the 1750s. Although a beautiful area in the summer, I can tell you from experience that the weather in the winter is no picnic, with heavy snowfalls, frequently closed roads, high winds blowing off the frozen ocean, and overall long winters. But driving along the coast in the middle of summer provides wonderful views of the Baie de Chaleur at every turn and the stormy months of the rest of the year are far
from anyone's mind.
At Pointe-a-la-Croix, we got off the bus and took a $7.00 taxi ride across the bridge to Campbelton, New Brunswick. The next morning, we boarded the train across the street from our hotel to head for Sackville, where we were meeting up with my son, Pat, who was performing at Sappyfest, a week-end indie music festival. The train to Sackville follows the coastline for the most part and is a combination of small towns and rural, ocean-side farms and residences. We got to watch the passing scenery as we had our breakfast in the dining car; even better than a revolving restaurant.
We arrived in Sackville in the middle of a downpour later that day. A total stranger at the station asked if we wanted a lift into town and we hesitatingly agreed since we were not sure at that point of the taxi situation in such a small place. Turned out he was with a group of students from the states that was at the local university for an large high-school environmental conference and competition. He dropped us off at what he thought was the right location with our suitcases in tow. But the
doors to this "right location" were all locked so off I went in the rain to find out where we were and how to get to where we were supposed to be!
Soon after, we did get a taxi that basically drove us a couple of blocks to our home for the next few days. He gave us a card and said," $6.00 for anywhere in town!". Yep, this is definitely a small place! Because of Sappyfest, with an expected audience of 2,000 for the weekend, and the U2 concert down the road in Moncton, with an expected crowd of 100,000, every room in a radius of 30 miles was booked. With a little name-dropping, lol, we were able to get a couple of single rooms in the Mount Allison University dorms, when I called a couple of weeks earlier. Normally, there would be lots of rooms available but they, too, were filled to capacity.
Sackville is a sleepy little town for most of the summer. For the most part, the town is the university. The small mainstreet area has a few restaurants/cafes, drugstore, bank and the other usual small shops for a one intersection place. But despite
this, it has become the little town that could. In 2007, the Department of Canadian Heritage declared Sackville the 2008 Cultural Capital of Canada. Heritage Minister Beverly J. Oda credited the town's selection to "programming that highlights the municipality's artistic creativity, regional history, community achievements, and natural charm." The current Via Rail station was designated a national historic railway station in 1993. And then we have Sappyfest, a major indie music festival, celebrating its sixth year, that now draws up to 2000 people for the three-day event.
The week leading up to Sappyfest includes numerous other events as well. It kicked off on Monday this year with the OK, Quoi?! contemporary arts festival. This festival "showcased interdisciplinary projects that push the boundaries of radio, electronics, video installation, film projection, performances, grilled cheese sandwich, audio and more. The list of activities included a 24 hour Super-8 film challenge, project launches, daily bbqs, artist talks, audio walks, workshops, youth projects and a Super-8 video drive-in. We were roped into being part of a Super-8 team but have yet to see the results of our efforts. The Super-8 projector bulbs blew on the night of the screening! We were given a bag
of props; a plastic pig, piece of rope, some paper pics and had one chance to put together a short film. No editing, no viewing until the night of the Video Drive-In. Hopefully, I will get a digitized copy sometime in the future so I can see how it all turned out!
Every morning there was a Kids Corner Power Jam. Young budding musicians got to see what it was like to be an indie artist. With the help of a few adults, including professional musicians, they spent the mornings writing songs and music, putting together bands and performances, making audio recordings of themselves, producing music videos, making costumes and masks, and finally performing on the Saturday morning of Sappyfest. It was a neat experience for everybody involved.
The festival itself did not fail to disappoint. The expected turn-out was not affected by the massive U2 show twenty minutes away. The weather held, for the most part. The bands were all great! It was great to see Pat perform on the main stage. The variety of music styles is huge and varies from quiet folk to blasting rock. I have noticed that more and more people are using
ear plugs at these things. At my age, and with my history of watching live shows, I don't think ear protection would make much difference at this point!
Arcade Fire was opening for U2 on Saturday night and made a surprise appearance on the Friday night under the name, "Shark Attack." This was a major coup for Sappyfest! For those not in the know, Arcade Fire is one of the top bands in the world right now. They have won numerous awards, including the 2011 Grammy for Album of the Year, the 2011 Juno Award for Album of the Year, and the 2011 Brit Award for Best International Album. Playing in the tent for an audience of 1500 or so was probably a little different for a band used to playing in front of tens of thousands!
The next night, we were treated to Charles Bradley as the final performance for the day and evening. He is the other end of the age spectrum at 63, a great blues singer backed up by an incredible band. Again, a great move by Sappyfest to have such a well-know artist. Bradley was opening for Stevie Wonder the following night in
Los Angeles. But let me give you the Sappy Times Review...."He sings ten thousand beautiful things. He does the splits, gyrates, gives us hugs.....I am almost crying as he sings,"I am getting old." It is not that he is an old man; it is that he is showing us his soul, singing us his soul, the things he wanted, lost, won. 'I love you' he shouts, crying, sweating.....That electric guitar, so sweet, sweeter than honey, beind him."
The overnight train back to Ottawa was another great trip. We still cannot get over how small Montreal looks as we approach it by train. I always thought of it as such a huge place until after living in Wuhan for over three years! But it is definitely cleaner and the sky is way more blue! Or I should say, the sky is blue. And you can't look at the sun! After 12 hours of training and 19 hours of flying, we finally arrived back home.
We have visited Sackville twice in the last few years, both times it was Sappyfest week. I would recommend this festival to anyone....before it gets any bigger than it already is. Get there a few
Kids Corner Power Jam
Getting ready to perform.
days before, check out the other stuff in the area (lots of cool museums)....you won't be sorry. It is a big-time festival with a small town heart.
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