It has now become the tradition, a given in fact, that every summer some of America’s (and Canada’s) top country music stars will be dropping in to little old Prince Edward Island to give a show at the Cavendish Beach Music Festival. To prove the point The 2019 Festival, running July 5 to 7, is headlined by Carrie Underwood, one of the top-selling country music artists of all times.
The event is produced by Whitecap Entertainment and The Buzz recently had a chat with Whitecap President and CEO, Jeff Squires, about his involvement with the Festival.
As any successful businessman does, Jeff recognized an unfulfilled opportunity when he realized that PEI was missing out by not having a large musical event to attract visitors. Outdoor festivals were being staged in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, so why not PEI? Cavendish is already very well known and a well established family destination, so the vision became creating an event that could “wrap itself” in the Cavendish experience.
Jeff admits to a “personal love” of country music, and after looking into other country music festivals, such as the Big Valley Jamboree in Alberta, chose this model for the event he wanted to produce. Another key factor was the property in Cavendish. Jeff and other people involved came to an arrangement with Scott Linkletter to acquire the land behind Avonlea Village—a large, naturally-sloping field with a water view. The grounds were then developed into a performance venue, notably with the installation of a state-of-the-art, 85-foot stage with the Gulf of St. Lawrence as the back-drop.
The final key piece to put in place was the on-stage entertainment. And Jeff says that from year one they decided to “start with the best” and booked the reigning country music ”queen” Reba McEntire. According to Jeff, Reba appreciated the specialness of the place. “She got it.”
And so began the establishment of the credibility of the Cavendish Beach Music Festival with the country music industry. And since then each year the program has featured country music royalty: Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Hunter Hayes, Rascal Flatts, Dixie Chicks, Luke Bryan and many others.
Says Jeff, “We do a good job of listening to the fans and taking recommendations,” and, as a result, the Festival has become a “must do” event in the summer festival season.
When asked what his greatest satisfaction might be as the producer of the Festival, Jeff says seeing next generations of fans in attendance and seeing the economic impact on tourism for the Cavendish area.
During the early years Jeff “had his fingers on everything,” but now, with ten years experience behind him, he says that during the Festival he likes to stand back, take notes and view the big picture.
And enjoy the sunset on the Gulf as it frames the latest country star in front of thousands of cheering fans.