Country music fans from all over Ontario and beyond are partying in Oro-Medonte this weekend for the annual Boots and Hearts Music Festival.
Canadian singer-songwriter duo Jessie Bower and Taylor Adams, of Jess and Tay, were the first to hit the stage Friday afternoon. They say performing at Boots and Hearts is “surreal.”
“We came from the emerging artist showcase in 2016 and have had this slot on the lineup now for the last two years,” Bower explained.
“We have been waiting and waiting for this day. We are stoked to be here,” Adams added.
The atmosphere at Boots and Hearts is “unmatched,” they say.
“It’s unreal,” Adams said. “You can’t get any better than Boots and Hearts when it comes to country music.”
Rachel and Mykal Petersen made the four-hour trip from New Liskeard to attend this weekend’s event at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds. The country music fans last attended Boots and Hearts 11 years ago.
“We are here as part of an anniversary gift,” Rachel explained. “We went the first year we got married and now we are back.”
The Petersens have been blown away by the live performances so far.
“We are most looking forward to Shania (Twain),” Rachel said of the Canadian icon who will perform Sunday night. “We are also looking forward to trying out the Ferris wheel.”
The only part of the festival that has been less than ideal, they say, is the camping accommodations. Mykal describes the camping area as being packed like “sardines.”
“It’s not chaos; it’s just packed,” Rachel said. “I got an OK sleep, but I wear earplugs.”
To get through the weekend, the Petersens say they will be drinking lots of water and limiting their alcohol intake.
Sarah and Shannon, who preferred not to provide their last names, are attending the festival for the first time this weekend.
“We came here to spend time with friends, enjoy the music and see Shania,” Sarah said.
The camping experience has been “interesting,” Shannon says, noting the atmosphere is “like one big party.”
“It can be frustrating having to share a tent when it’s super-hot,” she said. “We would definitely stay in an RV next time.”
The secret to surviving the weekend is water and Gatorade, according to Shannon, while Sarah’s strategy is to not stop consuming alcohol until Monday morning.
Paige Rutledge, from Oakville, is attending the festival with her friends, Rachel Jeans and Ayden Jacobs, from Durham Region. Rutledge has been attending the festival since 2015.
“This is such a nice way to enjoy country music,” she said. “You discover so many new artists.”
Jeans says she is enjoying the atmosphere of the festival.
“I can already tell I’ll be coming back, for sure,” she said. “It’s a good energy here, live music all day, drinks, sunshine. It doesn’t get much better.”
Rutledge says during the COVID-19 pandemic, she felt like a piece of her summer was missing without Boots and Hearts.
“I came last year to the summer series they had, but it wasn’t the same,” she said. “It was still a fantastic atmosphere, but it wasn’t the same as this. It’s so nice being back here and feeling the energy.”
Festival organizers declined to comment for this article.