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Area 506 unveils plans for 2021 Waterfront Concert Series

New Brunswick is the focus of the Area 506 festival this weekend in Saint John. Andrew Cromwell/Global News

Area 506 will have a different look this summer, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Organizers of the annual music festival in Saint John have announced plans for the 2021 Waterfront Concert Series.

The ten-part series will take place over five weekends beginning July 16 as opposed to previous festivals held during the New Brunswick Day long weekend.

“After several months of planning, we are excited to announce our pivot plan for 2021,” said Ray Gracewood, Area 506 founder and chairperson.

“This year’s format will look a little different and really puts the health and safety of our volunteers, artists and attendees at the forefront.”

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The concert series will be held at Long Wharf, home to Area 506 between 2016 and 2018. Last year’s event was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Gracewood said the biggest changes are the format itself and the size of the venue. He said the festival drew 4,000-8,000 people, numbers that are currently not possible with pandemic restrictions in place.

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He said organizers worked with public health and different levels of government to create a pod-style seating system. Tickets for each show will be sold in six or ten-person pods only, with a maximum of about 650 spectators each night.

“They’ll get to experience each and every show as a bit of a mini-VIP section,” he said of the seating arrangements. “So we’re excited to see how things work out. It will be different from our normal festival atmosphere, but at the same time, it’s a great solution considering our current situation.”

Festival frequenters will notice no vendor village this year. And Gracewood said they’ve gone to a cashless vending system for food and drink transactions.

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Gracewood said it’s exciting to bring live music back to the region in the new-look format, but admits organizers are already looking at going back to a more traditional festival in 2022.

“Area 506 was sort of built on providing New Brunswick a soap box to talk about music, culture and goods,” he said. “And we think that the container village and all those experiential elements really adds to a really cool festival dynamic.

“The intention would be to go back to that model over time, once things are more comfortable that what they are now. That would be the plan.”

The concert series lineup will be announced May 28. Tickets go on sale June 3.

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