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Hillside Festival bounces back

Focus on protest music and new date helping popular summer festival recover from lower 2016 numbers
20160723 Hillside 4 sam boer ts
Drummer Sam Boer of the Lifers gets into things at Hillside 2016. Tony Saxon/GuelphToday

Crowd size has never been the determining factor in the success of Guelph's venerable Hillside Festival.

It has run the gamut: from humble beginnings as a free event at the Riverside Park bandshell to several years of a people camping out on Woolwich Street overnight to nab tickets before they all sold out.

No matter what the ticket demand, the festival has always managed to maintain its high standards of what it offered on and off stage as well as its integrity.

But ticket sales are an important part of being able to provide those offerings and Hillside is happy to report that sales have rebounded from what was, compared to recent years, a down 2016 when it came to attendance.

Hillside executive director Marie Zimmerman said increased marketing efforts, a switch in dates and having "protest music" as a theme for this year's event have all played a part.

Hillside happens July 14 to July 16 this year, two weeks earlier than the traditional date as organizers shifted in order to find a less-competitive weekend on the provincial festival circuit.

"It's going really good, much better than last year," said Zimmerman, noting that ticket prices increase on July 1.

"The new date seems to be going over very well and for the most part people are happy with it," she said.

None of the three dates are currently sold out but Zimmerman expects Sunday to sell out for sure and possibly Saturday.

The theme of resistance and protest music was also a conscious decision.

"We decided to look at that because of a number of things that are happening right now: what's going on south of the border, truth and reconciliation (with Canada's indigenous peoples) and the LGBTQ rights movement are all things that are in forefront right now," Zimmerman said.

"Artists who are coming, like Billy Bragg, Leonard Sumner, NEFE, Sarah Harmer and DJ Shubb are all people who have been activists for human rights, the environment and political rights.

"Resistance and protest music have always been part of Hillside, we've always included that form of artistry, it's just more of a focus in programming this year."

Ticket info and the full lineup of artists and events can be found here