River and Sky Festival to go ahead, but with conditions

A popular music festival is set to go ahead with in-person performances, but fans of River and Sky are going to notice a few changes if they attend next weekend.

Attendance is being capped at 300, there will be rapid COVID-19 testing at the gate, the festival will only be two days and you must show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.

"We are usually five days, but with the reopening of Phase 2 and all the guidelines that they gave, we are able to have an outdoor event," said executive director Abigail Cassio.

River and Sky is essentially first out of the gate when it comes to the festival season, and Cassio said they know some of the changes may not be popular with everyone.

"We came to the decision that after the capacity limits and the stuff the government put out about Phase 2, that it would be safe for us to hold an event because we're completely outdoors," she said.

"It took a lot of talking to the health unit, researching and seeing what we could do, but the health and safety committee came to the conclusion that it would be the best way to have us all out comfortably and safe."

Organizers are asking people to show a copy of their vaccination receipt because it only lists names and dates and no other private information.

Cassio said there has been a lot of reaction to their decision and while not everyone agrees with their stance, comments have been generally more positive than negative.

"And we're hopeful these rules won't have to be this way in the future - you know we just want to reiterate to everyone that we have to do this to be safe," she said.

Chris Fisher owns the property and has played host to the festival for several years. He's all for the rules and the precautions.

"It's more important that we host a music festival, because it's going to be one of the first ... it's important that we get it right," he said.

His house, his rules

Fisher compared the situation to what he tells his kids about it being 'his house, his rules.' Considering that the festival is being held on private property where people live, he wanted to make sure everyone remains safe.

"It's unchartered territory and we realize it's a little bit controversial," he said. "It's not a debate for us -- it's private property and if we upset a few people, so be it. The arts need to get going again."

Bigger festivals like Manitoulin Country Fest have cancelled this year and are already looking ahead to 2022. Smaller events that they've planned will be drive-in only. Organizers of the Timmins Rock on the River are still trying to assess the status of their event.

River and Sky will be held July 16-17. Tickets will be made available this weekend.