Escapade Music Festival is requiring ticket holders to be fully vaccinated in order to attend this year. On July 19, the organizers made the announcement in a statement on Facebook, along with the news that the festival would be held this September.
Festival director Ali Shafaee says the decision is in line with the spirit of Escapade.
“This festival, it’s been about creating a community, having a safe space to be able to enjoy music,” says Ali. “A lot of it was really just being able to put on an event for our fans, and [asking] how can we do that while maintaining an environment that is as safe as possible.”
“Vaccinations were really the main focus of what obviously is out there in terms of a return to normal,” Ali adds.
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He says that when Ontario moved to its most recent phase of reopening, the Escapade organizers saw an opportunity to hold the event safely. The festival cancelled their 2020 dates, and have since moved the dates for their next event three times.
Since the festival’s statement was posted on Facebook, they have received comments showing mixed reception, including some responses from people expressing criticism of the news. Ali says he and his team dug deeper into who was posting to understand that group’s connection to the festival.
“People obviously are looking to be able to participate in events. And we’ve seen that just from our waiting list.”
“We found a lot of that audience is not even fans of ours,” he says. “They don’t follow our pages, they didn’t buy any of our tickets. They were people that had an opinion on vaccinations, or against vaccinations or whatever you want to call it. When 40 percent of our audience who is commenting in a negative way don’t actually even go to our festival or attend, it doesn’t really bother us that much.”
Actually, says Ali, the festival’s fans have expressed more support and interest after the announcement was made. As of Friday morning, Escapade’s waitlist for fans wanting to attend was sitting at around 1,200 people, up from 700 since Tuesday.
“If anything, it shows us that there is an appetite for people to be able to return to live events under any kind of scenario,” he says. “People obviously are looking to be able to participate in events. And we’ve seen that just from our waiting list.”
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Ali says the festival isn’t trying to infringe on people’s decision to get the jab. “We’re not trying to dictate whether someone gets vaccinated or not. Everyone has their own personal choice,” he says.
He says that the only time ticket holders have to present their vaccination information is when they go to pick up their tickets, and that it will not be recorded or stored.
Escapade’s pop-up vaccination clinic is being held this Saturday, July 24 at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park at 300 Coventry Rd. The event is run in partnership with Ottawa Public Health, and will include live DJ sets, merch giveaways, and 100 tickets for next year’s Escapade Festival, valued at $200 each.
“In theory, [the event] was just to make it as simple as possible for people to be able to come out and roll up your sleeves,” says Ali.
Those who want to register for the vaccination clinic can do so here.