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On Thursday, it was announced the 2024 Home County Music and Art Festival is cancelled. Here are some things to know about the event.
The Home County Music and Art Festival debuted in London at Victoria Park in 1974.
The festival’s founders came up with the name “H.O.M.E County,” as an acronym for nearby counties: Huron, Oxford, Middlesex and Elgin.
Since its debut, the festival has undergone name changes from Home County Folk Festival to its current name, the Home County Music and Art Festival to better reflect the festival’s broader musical spectrum and original crafters and artisans who are part of the event.
The event is admission by donation and has featured a variety of Canadian artists and musicians since its inception nearly 50 years ago.
Some past Canadian musicians who performed at the festival include:
- Paul Valdemar Horsdal a.k.a Valdy, a folk and country musician, and two-time Juno award winner.
- Hank Fisher a.k.a Washboard Hank, a multi-instrumentalist, known for performing with instruments he’s created.
- Jackie Washington, a blues singer, guitarist and piano-player.
- Ashley MacIsaac, fiddle icon and three-time Juno award winner.
- Fred Penner, famed children’s entertainer and musician.
Board chairperson Sara Lanthier said volunteers play an important role at the event, and the festival has had difficulty finding volunteers, especially in leadership roles.
Lanthier thinks the pandemic has contributed to the lack of volunteers.
“I think it has something to do with COVID. I think a lot of people got used to being at home during COVID and spending more time with their families,” she said.
In addition to a shortage of volunteers, the festival is facing financial difficulties, which would be further exacerbated by hosting the 2024 event.
“We’re looking this year at a deficit of almost $30,000,” Lanthier said. “And, you know, we’re forecasting, if we hold the festival next year, too, you know, obviously increases that deficit,” she said.
Lanthier said Home County isn’t the only event that is facing challenges.
“This is not just a Home County issue. This is across the board.”
Executive director Eunju Yi said Home County relies on volunteers, and the pandemic might be playing a role in the decreased numbers.
There’s “interesting changes in people’s behaviour that we’ve noticed, that people are still, you know, not super comfortable about gathering where there’s a large amount of people,” she said.
Yi said federal and provincial funding stopped after COVID, meaning less financial support for the festival.
The cancellation of the festival in London, isn’t an anomaly; other communities have cancelled events as well.
“You know, we see those situations, not only in London, but again, the way it appears, it looks a bit different depending on the community,” Yi said.
She said she is still waiting to have a follow-up meeting with the organizers of Home County.
Cory Crossman, music industry development officer with the city, said the live music sector is still facing challenges following the pandemic.
“There are mounting pressures that were brought on by the pandemic and this is another great example of why we’re not back to normal,” he said.
The cost of hosting events is more significant and there is a greater demand for federal and provincial grants, Crossman said.
“It hurts to see an event like this come back and have a great year in the summer, and have it take a break.”
The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada