With just three weeks until CannaFest kicks off its second year in Grand Forks, Chuck Varabioff is a busy man.
The organizer and mastermind behind the event, which is being held in Grand Forks for the second time, is preparing to welcome over 4,000 people to James Donaldson Park on Aug. 5 and 6. The event will feature a variety of Canadian classic rock acts over the course of the two-day festival.
This year’s bands include Chilliwack and Sass Jordan on Friday night, and Doug and the Slugs, the Headpins, and Honeymoon Suite on Saturday night. The event will have a beer garden running both evenings and a smoking area. The site notes that children are welcome and because it is considered an all-ages event, drinking will be confined to the beer garden.
Varabioff said he brought the event to his hometown after a couple of similar events in Vancouver were disappointing—there was too much competition in the big city.
“I had the classic rock band Prism playing in my back parking lot for 40 people,” Varabioff said. “But I realized … I loved what I was doing. I figured Grand Forks would be a perfect fit.
“I was born and raised in Grand Forks, and … there’s really nothing like this anywhere in the area.”
The event saw 3,000 people come out last year, and Varabioff said they’re shooting for 4,000 to 5,000 this year. Over time, he hopes the talent level will grow and see some big names come to Grand Forks.
Reception in the community has been great, he said, even though the music may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
“The majority are 50-60 [years old], but with that being said, the kids and grandkids have been exposed to it from the time they were little,” he said. “Everybody was brought up on [this music]. They might not listen to it everyday but they hear it on the radio station. It caters to everyone.”
Varabioff said he’s learned a few lessons from last year’s show. This year, he said he’s going to take some time out to relax and enjoy the music.
“Just sitting back and enjoying it, knowing I’ve worked so hard on it,” he said. “It puts Grand Forks on the map. Even now I get comments [on] what a beautiful place Grand Forks is, so I do think especially as the years go by people will see all the photos and see what a nice place it is.”
“Last year I took a bit of a gamble and it paid off. It was super successful and I was very happy with it, and that’s why I have committed to coming back year and year after for the next three or four years.”
Weekend passes cost $100, day passes $60 and kids passes $30. Camping and RV parking is available. Tickets are available online at cannafest.ca or in Grand Forks at The Source, Vicom Designs and Jogas Espresso Cafe. Attendees are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket for the grass at the park.