Wiikwemkoong Arts, Music Festival goes virtual at the Manitowaning amphitheatre

MANITOWANING – This year’s edition of the Wiikwemkoong Arts and Music Festival (WAMF) was almost another live performance victim of the pandemic, but thanks to some ingenuity, a partnership with the Township of Assiginack and a lot of hard work behind the scenes, the show will go on—albeit in a largely virtual venue—this coming Friday, September 24.

Headlining the online event will be blues empresario Crystal Shawanda, who is home for a couple of weeks of R and R before resuming her 2021 tour in the southern US. There is a relatively small lineup, given the tight organizational timelines in setting things up, but organizer Jason Manitowabi assures The Expositor the talent will more than make up for the short list.

“Basically it’s a flash festival,” said Mr. Manitowabi. “We really only firmed up the plans a couple of Fridays ago. That’s kind of how things have been working out for a lot of things this year. They get announced and then cancelled. We really didn’t know how things were going to go. But it looks like things are a go for this Friday.”

The venue was originally set for Wiikwemkoong, but then COVID-19 raised its hoary head once again and it was deemed not advisable to put WAMF on in that community. “It was disappointing to have to make that decision,” admitted Mr. Manitowabi, “but then we were able to work something out with Assiginack, who have had some success this year with small scale events.”

That “something” was the opportunity to utilize the waterfront amphitheatre in Manitowaning. As things would have it, Debajehmujig, the sponsors of WAMF, are currently working on a production that has collaboration with a number of resources that will assist in putting together a great experience.

Besides the incredible visual impact of Manitowaning Bay and the MS Norisle in the background, a small covered stage has been made available and a livestreaming company has added its significant technological resources to the already impressive Debaj mix.

The music is slated to begin “around 3 pm,” according to Mr. Manitowabi, but with a number of acts still in flux things may go online even earlier. Among the acts taking stage will be a Tom Petty tribute show, courtesy of Ms. Shawanda’s collaborators, Mason Animikwan and Everett Morrison, as well as Kettle Point powerhouse Brothers Wild.

The event will be livestreamed on both the Debajehmujig Facebook page and on YouTube. Log in at facebook.com/DebajehmujigStorytellers or by searching Debajehmujig Storytellers on YouTube.