Music festival aims to attract tourism during cold months

Hitting the Skins: Michael De Souza, drummer for the Ashley Hundred, in a practice space in Calgary on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. The Ashley Hundred are scheduled to perform at the 2022 edition of the Big Winter Classic music festival. (Photo by James Martens/The Press)

Organizers and affiliates of the music festival Big Winter Classic (BWC) are hoping to attract tourism to Calgary during the colder months.

BWC was originally scheduled for Jan. 27-30, but updated COVID restrictions forced the festival to postpone until March 24 and will run for three consecutive weekends.

Festival director Adrian Urlacher said the extended time frame will provide an opportunity for greater economic return for local businesses, as well as an emotional release for patrons.

“People are going to want to get out and socialize,” said Urlacher. “People are going to want to get back out of their houses and dance.”

Jeff Hessel, senior vice president of marketing at Tourism Calgary, says that festivals like BWC are important to keep tourism alive during the winter.

“People don’t usually travel during the winter and we don’t have as many things open or running at this time,” said Hessel. “The nice thing about festivals is they provide an urgency. [BWC] is only happening on these… weekends and it does generate that demand during the winter months for people to come.”

Michael De Souza, drummer for local band the Ashley Hundred, believes the festival breaking up into multiple weekends would give people more options, and also “offers the opportunity to stretch [the experience] out.”

According to Urlacher, the choice to split the festival up into three weekends was mostly due to complications in rescheduling acts.

“We didn’t want to break up the integrity of the festival,” he said. “We just tried to adapt with the changes.”

People are going to want to get out and socialize. – Adrian Urlacher

Even with current COVID restrictions creating uncertainty, Urlacher is confident BWC will happen; however, he added that “if we have a mandate still in place where you have to be seated, you have to wear a mask and you can’t dance… then we won’t be doing a festival.”

For Hessel, building up consistency is important for both the festival and tourism in the years to come.

“If we don’t get people this year to [attend] Big Winter Classic, hopefully we can create enough buzz and reputation for people to plan it now for next year,” he said. “The more we can sell that kind of consistency of experience, year over year, we find that it can really build to help these festivals out.”

About James Martens 3 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, James Martens is working as a writer for The Press during the 2021-22 academic year.