Thousands of local residents and travelers are expected to be in attendance for the 2023 Crew Fest at Lion’s Park on Saturday, July 29, 2023.
This year’s lineup will include Bif Naked, the Headstones, Our Lady Peace and LIVE as this year’s headlining act.
When business partners Jamie Stephens and Lance Calbeck first launched the festival back in 2015, the two originally called the event “WTFest” or “What The Fest.”
The event ran with the name for several years before the two recently decided they wanted to do a rebrand for its sixth year.
“We actually made a decision last year to change the name and kind of soften it a little bit. These festivals cost a lot of money to put on and sponsorship is huge,” said Stephens. “We pride ourselves in having a lot of really cool local business sponsors, but eventually we want to be able to attract major brands too. To attract major brands, you can’t do anything that’s going to be deemed offensive, so we did decide to change the name.”
Known fans of the original WTFest, Ryan Campbell and The Crew Real Estate were one of the sponsors for the 2022 event (a more low-key Much Music video dance party) and decided they wanted to be more involved in coming years.
“Ryan and his team have come to the festival every year and they’ve supported us with large group purchases and sponsorships,” said Stephens. “He came last year and loved what we were doing so he approached us with an idea to come on board as the title sponsor and we worked out a three-year deal with them. That’s when we kind of came up with the concept of ‘what if we call it Crew Fest? We’re happy to have a local business who’s willing to invest like a major Toronto company would invest in it and it keeps the money in Brantford and Brant County too.”
Stephens said when he announced the lineup earlier this year in January, they were slightly nervous about how many tickets they would sell.
“We threw the dance party last year because we weren’t sure how many people were ready to get out to a festival, and there were some of those same concerns this year because a lot of festivals didn’t survive after 2022,” he said. “A lot of them came out with the full big headlining rock show and they didn’t end coming back this year. We feel very fortunate to be back in 2023 and based on the response we have for this year, people are ready to get back to it too.”
After the announcement, Stephens checked the online ticket sales and saw they had sold only ten within the first ten minutes – not the response he had hoped for.
“When I refreshed the web page again, it popped up that it was actually 500 tickets sold in the first ten minutes and so that was a big sigh of relief,” he laughed. “We ended up selling 2000 tickets in the first 24 hours and within the first 72 hours our entire VIP section sold out and that’s never happened to us before. Usually our VIP tickets sell out in the weeks before the festival – not six before.”
It’s not just Brantford residents excited for this year’s line-up, but international travelers as well.
“The thing that’s cool is that we always get people that travel for our festival,” he said. “We have people coming from California, Omaha, we’ve got someone flying in from the UK, we’ve got Australians coming, we’ve got people from Florida, Cincinnati and more – it’s just absolutely wild.”
Stephens noted that they will likely have 7000 people coming in to attend the event and with a max capacity of 8000 people and good weather, he sees them hitting the max capacity.
Once attendees make it past security, guests can enjoy their choice of a total of 13 food trucks (11 in general admission and two in the VIP area), a cornhole tournament, 30 vendors to shop from, three beer tents, and a merch pen with merch from all the different bands, as well as Crew branded merch from Brantford Apparel.
“We’ve also got Grant Schuman coming with his Shack Bar,” said Stephens. “We love the shipping container converted into a bar and so we’ve got that as one of our feature bars at the festival. It’s kind of a win-win, you know? He gets a little bit of rental revenue from it while getting to showcase it and he gives us a pretty cool signature for the festival.”
Despite all the hard work of organizing such a large event, Stephens said that it’s all worth it for him and Calbeck in the end.
“We’ve definitely grown closer over the years. When you’re in these things, it’s like going to battle beside each other. It’s definitely been rewarding, to say the least, but also at the same time, very stressful,” he said. “I think we would both agree that we’ve definitely aged internally and externally a little bit quicker than we probably planned to since taking this on, but nothing beats it. Lance and I have always made a point to be up there for the headliner and nothing beats just standing there, looking around and watching everybody singing word for word. There’s thousands of people there screaming, having a good time and you just kind of look around and go ‘man, all this from a lunch meeting?’ We always look at each other every year like ‘okay, this was all worth it.’”