The 7th annual RNLI Park Fest has now come and gone, a weekend like no other where the committee and crew got greyer and older by the second, wondering what the weather was going to do on Friday and how much devastation would be left in its wake. In true Park Fest fashion though everyone pulled together and bar a couple of puddles at either end of the marquee, that were soon dealt with by a trusty bilge pump courtesy of Dumfries and Galloway council, the show was on and ready to go.
Young Guns night saw Jessica Harrison, Caution By The Monumental Goose, Delphi, Scope and Arcadium turn out performances that had many saying it was the best line up of talent since the inception of the event. Sadly due to illness Amie Kirkpatrick from Dumfries couldn’t make it along to perform and everyone involved with Park Fest wishes her a speedy recovery.
Main day started with ‘Haeniacs‘ queuing at the door to get the best spot for the long day ahead and credit to them they took in all the festival had to offer for the nine and a half hour wait till their favourite appeared on stage. Along the way though they found some emerging talent they liked too (and no this wasn’t just our compère’s Ali and Lee). A strong and very loud start to the day was ushered in by Chopperhead, belting out fast paced rock at half past twelve on a Saturday afternoon certainly let everyone in Stranraer know that Park Fest 2016 had started. The afternoon ebbed and flowed with the relaxed styling’s of local girls Rachel Reid, Caitlin McCornick and Lorna McColm mixed with the ever professional Freefall and eclectic mix of rock, blues and jazz from The Black Art Babas. Last minute stand ins Novantae bought themselves a new group of fans with and outstanding set of original material and begged the question will they return to main day evening slots in the near future?
The afternoon session was brought to an emotional close by a very full stage with the final ever performance by The Elastic Band and what a set it was. It had the potential to go two ways, One- too many people on the stage and it doesn’t work or Two- give the performance of their lives in memory of their sorely missed band mate Quintin Goodall who passed away earlier this year, for anyone with any doubts it was the latter.
Any sorrowful cobwebs were soon blown away with The Samba Sisters taking on the break entertainment with two 40 minute sets of Samba And Brazilian drumming.
With a strong evening session brought by Glasgow band Broken Boy and Park Fest favourites the boys from Belfast- The Late Twos, the ever increasing audience numbers were given a great build up from these emerging acts as they lead to them to the headline act.
Now booking a former X Factor winner to headline can be seen as a risky manoeuvre, how will ticket sales go? will people enjoy the performance? could this mark the end for big names at the little festival with a big heart?
So Ben Haenow 2014 X Factor Winner had agreed to appear on our stage, much contract negotiations took place, toing and froing with agents, booking flights, adhering to contractual obligations and what happens? Up turns Ben and his brother Alex two of the nicest, easy going guys you are ever going to meet. Nothing was an issue to them. They loved the hospitality and welcome they received and this is before they have even made it to the stage.
At this point lets think of the ‘Haniacs‘ traveling from deepest Swindon and other parts of the UK (Sorry can’t remember where they all said they were from) and even in one case France!! They lined up at the front of the stage patiently waiting for their idol to appear. Now our compères love playing with the crowd and can occasionally wind them up, this is exactly what they decided to do building the crowd by giving a running countdown till Ben’s appearance, teasing them with fake introductions and getting them practicing chants.
With Lee’s X Factor style introduction Ben started a forty minute strong set, joined at one point by his brother on guitar treating the crowd to some acoustic numbers. To say he had the crowd in the palm of his hand is an understatement, he was like the pied piper with people of all ages dancing, swaying and singing along to a highly polished performance filled with cheeky grins and even a Beyonce bum shake.
The night was finished off by local band The Dangleberries and their always impressive electric and bagpiped rock mix. The crowd were bouncing, in fact at one point I think the tent was bouncing too.
So many people to thank, if I miss someone sorry.
Our RNLI Crew, committee, hostesses, lighting and sound guys, hi vis helpers, Wags (and Shurdie), stage crew, security, merchandise and ticket girls, photographer Pete Robinson and each every other volunteer that gave their time to help us out I thank you all.
Also to the various media that have supported us over the years DGWGO, the Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press, Dumfries and Galloway Life, The Galloway Gazette, Small Town Sounds and Alive radio you get us out there for the world to see, thank you for sharing our releases and information.
Was the festival a success??? Yes. Are we doing it again next year??? You bet. Will there be another big name headliner??? Pass but we will do our very best.
From all of us at Park Fest to all of you who attended, come back next year, bring your friends and families and we will endeavour to put on the best show we possibly can to keep you coming back year after year.