Haliburton Forest aims to revive festival
By Angelica Ingram
Nov. 8, 2016
*This story has been amended since first being published.
After a year-long hiatus, organizers of the annual Forest Festival have announced it will be returning to Haliburton County in August 2017.
The multi-day music event was cancelled in 2016 due to a court case involving the municipality of Dysart et al and Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve, which hosts the event.
Earlier this year, a court ruling ordered Haliburton Forest to demolish buildings that did not meet building code requirements, the Logging Museum being one of them. The festival is held in the Logging Museum, along with the Bone Lake Amphitheatre.
Chief building official for Dysart et al Dan Sayers said that while the municipality has come to an arrangement with the Haliburton Forest, there is still much work to be done.
“We’ve reached an agreement ... to permit them a length of time to try to correct the deficiencies in the buildings so that they can get building permits and not tear them down,” said Sayers.
The agreement gives the Haliburton Forest until the spring.
Sayers said once the forest can prove they are in compliance with the building code, the municipality will issue permits.
Haliburton Forest general manager Malcolm Cockwell said they are working on modifying all the buildings to ensure they comply, but have prioritized the sawmill first, as it is used more frequently than the museum.
“There’s still work we have to do on it [the Logging Museum] to get the mass assembly occupancy. Until now our efforts with this issue has been to get the sawmill buildings into compliance first because those are the ones that are used every day.”
Cockwell said they are working on getting the museum to code before getting the required occupancy.
Haliburton Forest withdrew its application to appeal the court ruling, which means the ruling stands as is, said Sayers.
“Which means they can’t use that building [the Logging Museum] for any type of a public function,” he said.
The building official says he has received sets of plans from the Forest but that he is not confident everything will be lined up by the spring deadline.
“We haven’t come to any kind of a mutual settlement,” he said. “The museum building in question has some serious issues with it as far as an assembly occupancy, which is a gathering of a group of people for a concert. The permit applications that they have submitted to me so far are strictly for that to be used as a storage building. And I have nothing from them indicating that they’re going to change the use of it.”
Sayers said health and safety come into play with the Logging Museum.
Cockwell confirmed the appeal was withdrawn due to the arrangement made with the municipality.
“Now we’re working constructively with Dan Sayers and the rest of the team to bring the buildings into compliance,” said Cockwell. “We’ve retained Duncan Ross Architects as well as an engineering company ... I’m quite confident that we’ll get it all figured out.”
Cockwell said he’s looking forward to having the festival return.
A press release issued on Nov. 2 said the 10th season will occur from Aug. 16 to 20, 2017.
Festival general manager Lesley English said they are looking forward to bringing back the festival in 2017, and have begun working on a musical line-up for the event.
“We’re hoping to bring back some of the highlights from the year that we had scheduled in 2016,” said English. “We’ve got a short list of some really exciting artists.”
The line-up for 2017 will be announced sometime early April, said English.
The general manager said the annual event typically sells about 2,000 tickets a year.
“I would say a significant percentage of that is seasonal residents and cottagers,” she said.
English said when the event was cancelled last year there was an outpouring of support from people expressing their love for the event.
The five-day music event is always held in August at the Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve. Past performers have included Jim Cuddy, Dan Hill, Sarah Harmer and Bruce Cockburn.