Escapade Music Festival kicks off with fully vaccinated patrons

For music fans in the capital, it has been a long two years.

Finally, on Saturday, live music came back with a bang.

Escapade Music Festival returned to Ottawa for the first time in two years.

“We’ve been waiting for two years. It’s honestly felt empty without festivals, without shows and we absolutely cannot wait for this event,” Justin Cooke said.

But the popular festival is a shadow of the large, raucous concert people remember.

“[It’s] definitely not bigger, but no, I mean, it feels good to be able to do an event again,” Escapade Music Festival Director Ali Schafaee joked.

“It’s stressful. We haven’t done something this big in two years, both ourselves, our team, and our suppliers. We’ll get through it and hopefully, come Monday, we’ll have had another successful Escapade,” Schafaee continued.

The festival normally hosts more than 20,000 people; this year, it will welcome just 9,000, all of them fully vaccinated for at least 14 days.

“We’re asking people to bear with us a little bit to understand there’s a reason we’re doing what we’re doing to try to make the event as safe as possible,” Schafaee said.

The safety protocols in place are enough for festivalgoers to feel safe amid the crowds.

“It feels weird. There’s been a lot of anxiety leading up to this but we know everyone’s vaxxed. We’re ready for this,” Cooke said.

Gurbax Singh, another festivalgoer, says he got his vaccine specifically to go to Escapade.

“It felt safer to get the vaccine for the festival and I know that I won’t be hospitalized in general,” Singh said.

Even with precautions, the event comes just one day after Canada’s top doctor warned against large gatherings.

“I think right now is not the time to gather in huge numbers with people not within your household – not without taking significant layers of protection and not without knowing what you’re heading into,” Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday.

“Personally I would recommend layering on a mask and keeping distance between others as much as you can possibly do,” Tam continued.

Despite the recommendation, festivalgoers are still willing to take the risk for a chance to enjoy live music.

“This is just a taste of what we’re going to experience in general. It’s a good start to freedom,” Singh said.