Homegrown Country Music Festival: Uncorking a New Wine Festival Event

Homegrown Country  Music Festival: Uncorking a New Wine Festival Event

By David DeRocco

The concept of hybrids is certainly not foreign to the people running the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival. So when it came to developing a new event designed to complement the success of their annual TD Tailgate Party, organizers decided that a blend of local VQA wines and  homegrown country music might just be the hybrid they were looking for.

As a result, June 19th is the day wine-loving country music fans will be raising their glass and toasting Niagara’s inaugural Homegrown Country Music Festival, part of a two-day weekend of summertime Niagara Wine Festival activity. Hosted on the Niagara-on-the-Lake farm of 2015 Grape King Jamie Slingerland of Pillitteri Estates Winery, the weekend kicks off June 18th with the TD Tailgate Party, the popular successor to the annual New Vintage event that Wine Festival organizers revamped six years ago. The new Homegrown Country Music Festival is an attempt to replicate the success of the Tailgate Party while building an event targeted to an entirely new audience. The Pillitteri farm provided the perfect opportunity to do that this year according to organizers. 

“The property that is being honoured this year has an adjacent 20 acre estate, 20 acres of cleared land that was just sitting there,” explained Kimberly Hundertmark, Niagara Grape and Wine Festival’s Executive Director. “With the Tailgate Party we were going in, setting up and then just leaving the next day. You’re putting in a stage, wineries are coming out with their trucks and equipment, there’s culinary installations. That’s a heck of a lot of work. It’s selling out over and over again so we thought, we’ve got this success going, what other kind of sustainable program can we develop.”

The answer was a festival that capitalizes on the growing international popularity of new country music, not only with young urban audiences but also with a broad demographic of wine lovers – a fact that seems contrary to the usual stereotype of the whiskey-drinking, beer-chugging country music fan.  However, with country artists including Johnny Reid releasing their own signature brands of wine, the timing for such a festival couldn’t be better.

The inaugural Homegrown Country Music Festival will be a showcase of new country artists who were each selected because of their deeply-rooted ties to the Niagara Region and the community. Organizers have put together a stellar line-up that includes Tebey, a singer and multi-genre songwriter who, when not writing chart topping hits for artists like One Direction and Pixie Lott, has scored multiple Top 10 hits on Canadian country music radio. “We’re super excited about this year, super excited to have Tebey,” said Hundertmark, who has local station New Country 89.1 on board as a media partner. Tebey is joined by singer/songwriter and former Thorold resident Ryan Creelman and St. Catharines’ own Brad Battle. Attempts to secure Niagara Falls born country music star Tim Hicks for the event were in the works but couldn’t be finalized.

For his part, Tebey is happy to be sharing the stage with some rising stars on the Canadian country scene. “I love seeing what other artists are doing,” said Tebey, whose biggest hits include “Somewhere in the Country,” “Till It’s Gone” and  a country cover of Avicil’s “Wake Me Up.” “What kind of songs they’re writing, what kind of show they’re putting on – especially up and coming acts, because their passion and excitement is always so fresh.”

One of the unique aspects of the Homegrown event will be a mash-up of country music provided by DJs Dave Stiles and DJ Tanner.

“I thought it would be cool to do a new country mash up, to bring in a new country influence and do something different rather than the typical dance-floor Bieber to Pitbull style mash-ups,” said Hundertmark. “It just happened that we had two young DJs that wanted to work with us in the fall. I asked them if they had ever thought of doing a new country mash up and they looked at us like, ‘no, but yes!’ They got really excited about it and reached out to some people they knew in Alberta who had done something similar.”

With the event scheduled noon till 7pm on the Sunday, Hundertmark says the Homegrown Country Music Fest will have fewer wineries than the previous night’s TD Tailgate Party, a raucous wine and food event that has been selling out for the last few  years. “People don’t tend to imbibe as much on a Sunday, and to have 40 of our winery partners out there would have just been too much.”  She says Sunday’s event still include a great selection of local wineries complemented by a fleet of food trucks providing a variety of options.

Tickets for the June 19th Homegrown Country Music Festival are $25.00 plus HST advance, $30.00 at the gate.  For more information, visit http://www.niagarawinefestival.com/homegrown-country-music-festival#sthash.Wkx63owN.dpuf