The evolution and restructuring of SappyFest

The eighth SappyFest was notable as the last year that co-founders Paul Henderson and Jon Claytor will serve as artistic and creative directors, marking a turning point in the festivals curation and an uncertain future. The two men responsible for turning what was a 250-person event, which Claytor has described as an “out of control” barbecue that spiralled out into a full-blown music festival due to an Eric’s Trip reunion, in its inaugural year into a cultural and economic centrepiece of the perfect Sackville summer are now stepping down amidst financial trouble after this year’s festivities, although their reasons for stepping down are still unexplained. According to the SappyFest website, the pair will “assist in the transition, passing on the torch to an amazing group of young people ready and willing to bring SappyFest into the future.”

Throughout the festival’s existence, Henderson and Claytor have been responsible for bringing artists such as Arcade Fire, Mount Eerie, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, and many other high-calibre musicians to Sackville, all the while remaining true to the small town New Brunswick community that surrounded them. “We’ve always sold Sackville as much as the musicians for SappyFest. Sackville’s like a key character in what we do,” says Claytor. In this regard, they have helped shape the expansive and lively music scene, while offering support and cultivating a lot of the talent emerging from the area.

This year, Sappy took a spectacular step toward a greater diversity through a combination of the oddities found in the sine fair, the Sculpture Theatre, book readings, and musical acts. But, for every oddball artist, there was an indie rock or folk act that assured the audience of an eventual return to familiar form. But as a whole the festival was so quirky with regard to curation that it felt like a new experience every couple of minutes; thus, it stands apart from other music festivals so much so that it can barely be defined as one.

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