As it celebrates its 46th edition, Kempenfest continues to be a major summer staple for the City of Barrie.

The annual festival for arts and crafts, food, children’s activities and musical entertainment, runs from August 4-7 and generates an economic impact of $8 million to $10 million annually for the City, according to Tom Aikins, who is in his 17th year as Kempenfest’s head of marketing and sponsorships. It also raises about $250,000 annually for capital projects in the community.

“It just makes for a great mid-summer festival celebration,” Aikins says. “It’s worked well, so we’ve stuck with it.”

The event began as a collaborative effort by the Barrie Art Club and Kiwanis Club in 1971 at Kempenfelt Bay with only a handful of artists. It moved to downtown Barrie in 1975 and expanded. It has attracted more than 350 arts and crafts exhibitors, including some from other provinces and the United States.

“It’s probably one of the biggest outdoor arts and crafts festivals in North America,” Aikins says. “It’s kind of on everyone’s must-be list in terms of selling.”

In addition to the two original event organizers, Kempenfelt now includes other service clubs or operators such as The Barrie Optimist Club, the Chamber of Commerce, YMCA, the Lions Club and Knights Of Columbus. Aikins says the City puts in about $25,000 annually in goodwill.

“The arts and crafts are the main attraction, but the main goal over the year is to try and expand it to as wide a demographic as possible – the midway for families, the concert venue, which attracts different crowds,” Aikins says. “The concerts we program are different each day, so it appeals to a broad section of folks. Some people enjoy festival food. So I think it appeals to a wide section of people.”

The midway is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

The arts and crafts exhibits are open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Kempenfest has expanded its budget this year for the nighttime musical acts through support from Molson and OLG. The Trews headline opening night, followed by Rik Emmett & RESolution 9 the second night, Barrie’s own The Road Hammers the third night and finished off with The Dreamboats.

Tickets for the nighttime acts are $20 and $25 for a VIP pass.

There is also free entertainment during the day.

And for those who like to drink beer, the Rotary Beer Garden should have everything to quench your thirst. The Garden attracts about 4,000 people.

“That’s a lot of beer,” Aikins says.

There’s also the annual Pie Wood Fired Pizza contest, which has been won several times by renowned eater Takeru (Kobi) Kobayashi.

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