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  • Ian Mattey

It Was a Good Run...

Where to begin? At the beginning I suppose...

Sean Burns & Lost Country - Sep 17

At the beginning of March we were in Las Vegas. COVID had only recently become a thing but we felt safe leaving Winnipeg for Sin City. By the time we came home five days later we felt it was time to get out of Dodge and, in fact, that we dodged a bullet. Not long after everything shut down. We spent the shutdown settling our nerves and coming to know what we needed to know.


We were fortunate here in the 'Peg that, for whatever reason, we were spared from significant numbers of cases and deaths. Soon enough, restrictions were eased and we all felt, little-by-little, more comfortable connecting with others, especially outdoors.


At that point Trudy and I decided to do what we could to support local musicians by hosting several backyard concerts. Pre-COVID, we'd planned to do two or three anyway, so we were just going to up our game. If you held it, they would come...was the premise and it turned out we were right. From the get-go we wanted people to both feel and be safe and comfortable attending. We created and posted a set of COVID Precautions, we rented a porta-potty for the summer, and most importantly, we assigned seating by self-declared bubbles to maintain safe distancing guidelines. Mask policy was the trickiest thing but we soon sorted that out too. The situation was good from the start and, thanks to the cooperation of the attendees, it only took a couple of shows to really nail things down. We were the model for good COVID practices that we set out to be. Polling attendees and performers after the shows confirmed we were on the right track and also led to many improvements.


Many shows sold out quickly, so we put on a second night. Most shows were between 90 minutes and 2 hours. The musicians were happy to play for appreciative audiences (I swear Cara Luft hovered above the stage most of the night!). Every single show sold out, every single one! In all we hosted 14 shows with every single cent from 'ticket' sales, some $16,525, going to local musicians.


Our summer backyard series was truly a cooperative effort of everyone involved and I think we can say that we achieved our goals: putting on great shows and doing so safely. That success led us to plan an indoor series every fourth Sunday at The Park Theatre over the Fall and Winter. The truth, however, was that all this took place when COVID was almost a non-entity for us - the numbers and risk were very low. Then the numbers started rising...


We got our first Winter Series show in on October 4th with the Reverend Rambler. It was a great show, done the Wits End way, but we still lost about a third of the audience due to COVID concerns. We've said from the beginning that everyone has to determine their own risk/comfort level and so we completely understood when folks chose to stay home. Polling of the audience the next day told us those that did attend felt we and The Park did a good job with COVID precautions. But the numbers kept rising...


So we postponed, until further notice, our second Winter Series show with Kris Ulrich, because he, we, and Erick (The Park) did not feel comfortable holding the show, even if some of the audience were still willing to attend. And the numbers keep rising...


Manitoba has gone from first (well, almost) to worst. We've become the Province with the highest per capita number of active cases and a test positivity rate that compares to those from the US suggesting that COVID is out there in the community to a much greater degree than the official numbers. This situation will most likely impact our shows (and much more) for the next several months. Trudy and I have hunkered down for the forseeable future - very few social contacts, shopping for necessities only, etc. That said, we remain committed to hosting shows, when we feel it is safe to do so, in order to support the local music scene.


As for specific shows, well, we're optimists, so we will coordinate with The Park and the performers to make a call on each show about 10 days before the show. You never know when a miracle might happen!


Ultimately we, like you, just want to return to some form of normalcy: hosting a half-dozen shows a year, enjoying the close company of family and friends, dining out, going to a movie.....sigh.


Take Care and Stay Safe...until we meet again!






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