COVID-19: RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa officially cancelled for summer 2021

RBC Bluesfest will be cancelled for a second straight year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. File photo, 2018. Kailey Klempner / Corus Radio

RBC Bluesfest, a staple of Ottawa’s summer festival lineup, has officially been cancelled for the second year in a row amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Longtime director Mark Monahan confirmed the cancellation of the planned July event in a statement Thursday afternoon.

“We’ve been working hard at trying to figure out a way to put on this year’s event, but we’ve simply run out of time, so we’re just going to have to move on,” he said.

One of this year’s top-billed acts, Rage Against The Machine, has committed to headline the 2022 version of the festival alongside hip hop duo Run the Jewels, Monahan said.

Anyone who held onto their tickets from the 2020 event, which was also cancelled due to a ban on major events amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be eligible for a full refund up until April 30, Monahan said.

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He encouraged Rage Against The Machine fans to keep their tickets for the 2022 edition of the festival to “guarantee the best prices possible.”

Current ticket holders will be contacted via email by Front Gate Tickets within the next 24 hours for further details on 2022 ticket options, he said.

Anyone with a ticket that does not include the Rage Against The Machine show will be automatically refunded.

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RBC Bluesfest expects all refunds will be processed within the next six weeks.

A full FAQ on ticket refund options is available on the Bluesfest website.

This marks the third time in roughly a month that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted Bluesfest organizers’ plans for music programming.

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The same organizing team had planned to put on a 100-person outdoor concert at Lansdowne Park in late March, facilitated by distancing, mask-wearing and rapid testing in advance of the event.

Those plans were quashed when Ottawa moved into the red zone on Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening framework in mid-March, which limited the number of people who could gather outdoors.

The team behind Bluesfest then teamed up with Ottawa Tourism for a concert series planned to stream live into the city’s hotel rooms, hoping to spur staycationers to support the local hospitality industry.

But organizers said those plans too have been delayed amid Ontario’s stay-home order, which went into effect Thursday morning and is expected to last four weeks.

Both events are delayed indefinitely, with no word yet when the shows might go on.

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