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Saskatchewan Jazz Festival moves to Victoria Park

The SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival is on the move.

After more than two decades at the Bessborough Gardens, the festival is moving to Victoria Park from June 30 through July 9.

Executive director Shannon Josdal said the move was necessary to keep the festival running for years to come.

"It's time for some change," she said. "We've got some very strategic goals that we're looking to achieve, and some huge shifts that we're seeing in the live music and the festival industry."

Josdal is excited about what's to come at Victoria Park. While she says she'll miss the iconic scenery of the Bessborough Hotel and its beautiful gardens that have become a pilgrimage of sorts for festival goers, she says the new site will allow them to do so much more.

"With that comes a much larger free program and an expanded festival day pass, so folks will get to see more for their money on that pass under the new model," Josdal said.

Finances and keeping the festival viable have become an issue in recent years, not just for Saskatchewan. The Vancouver Folk Festival decided not to hold a festival this summer, and may never again because of escalating production costs.

Josdal said to avoid the same fate, the Sask. Jazz Fest had to find an alternate location. If the festival didn't make any changes or find another location, they would have had no choice but to close.

"It is a very different economy, a very different landscape. And the feasibility and costs associated with moving to Victoria Park are much more sustainable for our organization. We are a nonprofit. We don't exist to make huge amounts of money," Josdal said.

Running the festival can cost up to $2 million, according to Josdal. With the industry decimated by COVID-19, staying at the Bessborough simply wasn't an option.

She says the new location isn't only more affordable, but much larger than the restrictive space behind the Bessborough.

Larger beer gardens, better viewing-areas, an artisan market and a family fun zone are just some of the benefits of moving. Another major component of moving is still being able to attract international talent.

"That's another reason to amalgamate and streamline our operation is to continue with the quality of programming," she said.

Josdal isn't seeing the move away from the Bessborough as a problem, but as an opportunity.

"To say that that is the only iconic spot would be an unfortunate view to take. We've got a lot of wonderful spots, and this is a new one," she said.

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