It has been a decade since Craig and Kelly Timmermans first set up the Manitoulin Country Fest marque, then located on the waterfront at Low Island Park, and over the past couple of years the event has really come into its stride, attracting thousands of country music fans from across the North and beyond to enjoy some of the biggest names in country today.
Things really didn’t look all that promising at the start. Beset with torrential rains, hammered by gale force winds and faced with a seemingly insurmountable series of setbacks, a maze of rules and regulations to navigate along with literally a million tiny details to keep track of, any of which could threaten to derail the event and leave the organizers in a rubble of despair.
Yet here we are—10 years down an often tortuous path—and Little Current’s dynamic duo of the radio waves stand victorious, with every foe along that long road vanquished and thousands of happy country music fans enjoying the fruits of their labours.
With their unflappable determination the Timmermans embody a pioneering spirit that helped develop the economy of Northern Ontario and demonstrate clearly that Manitoulin Island’s entrepreneurs can stand shoulder to shoulder with those of the larger, more populous centres that surround us.
Certainly the Timmermans have not accomplished their success in establishing Manitoulin Country Fest as the North’s seminal country music festival on their own, a fact that they readily admit with charming frequency as they thank the hardy team of perennial volunteers who come forward each year to supplement the dedicated core of staff from the Country 103 country music (and Glow 100 top 40) radio station to tackle a host of tasks that need to be accomplished.
The Island business community has also stepped up to place their fiscal shoulders to the wheel as sponsors of the event, led by Manitoulin Transport whose own brand graces the permanent stage that is so essential to attracting the big names in the country music industry. It was hard to miss the Loco Beanz logo gracing the T-shirts of the volunteers manning the ticket booths, merch tables and disposing of the inevitable mountain of trash generated by a hungry and thirsty crowd, helping keep the grounds clean.
The Northeast Town has also been an integral cog in the machine, from providing the original venue, to providing legislative assistance and lending essential infrastructure to help overcome some of the logistical challenges faced by the Manitoulin Country Fest team, particularly in its early stages.
Another key element in building the success of this event has been the generous support of the Ontario government, which through its Festivals and Events program each year provides a major investment to the event.
Pulling together as a well-organized team, the Island community has helped make Manitoulin Country Fest the success it has become, but that success would never have come about without the vision, the dream and the dogged determination and indomitable spirit of the entire Timmermans family.
This past weekend’s visit to the Manitoulin Country Fest grounds by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, her first visit to Manitoulin Island, demonstrates that the event has truly come of age.
The Lions Haweater Weekend celebrations rank at the pinnacle of the tourist season on Manitoulin Island, bringing economic security to many Island businesses, but the impact of Manitoulin Country Fest has extended the high season with yet another family-friendly event.
The entire Expositor family extends its heartfelt congratulations to Craig and Kelly Timmermans, their family and the whole Manitoulin Country Fest crew on building an event that will doubtless only continue to grow and wish them every success as they build upon the past for an even more successful second decade.