The last Kempenfest on Barrie’s waterfront was in August 2019.
Soon after the event ended, organizers began to make preparations for the 2020 festival, which was to have been the 50th anniversary of Kempenfest.
But something called COVID-19 got in the way, and the event, which attracts hundreds of artisans from across the province, has been in what Kempenfest Chair Todd Tuckey calls “semi-limbo” ever since.
With the province beginning to lift COVID-19 restrictions, Tuckey and the board of directors have been working like it is all systems go for this year’s festival.
“By now, typically, you have all your entertainment lined up, and those things already in place. Those are items we’ve just started engaging with now that we know everything’s going to open,” Tuckey told Barrie 360.
Negotiating contracts with the artisans have also proven to be more challenging due to the pandemic, and the board has brought in a professional team to handle those matters.
Kempenfest returns along 2.5 kilometres of Barrie’s waterfront from July 29 to Aug. 1.
“Kempenfest annually has drawn for the last while between 200,000 and 250,00 people to our region,” said Tuckey. “Years ago we had Georgian College do a survey for us and the economic spin-off to our region was over $12 million.”
It remains the largest outdoor arts and crafts festival in North America.
But Kempenfest has blossomed into something more than just its main selling point. There is also a midway and live music, and Tuckey adds there will be some new things to talk about for the upcoming festival.
He also wants the public to know that Kempenfest is owned by a number of nonprofits and is not a City of Barrie event, though the city does have a vote on the board of directors.
In other words, the public attending Kempenfest and spending money puts cash back into local charities that in turn give back to the community.
The Kiwanis Club, the Rotary Club of Barrie, the Optimist Club, Barrie Art Club, Barrie Chamber of Commerce, and the Knights of Columbus are the charities steering the Kempenfest ship.