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Coal Dust Days Festival in Cape Breton returns after two years of pandemic cancellations | SaltWire

Coal Dust Days Festival in Cape Breton returns after two years of pandemic cancellations | SaltWire

A sense of community. 

It’s one way to describe the importance of the annual New Waterford Coal Dust Days Festival each year. From seeing old friends at events to having a reason to come home, the festival has a purpose for current and former residents. 

However, there hasn’t been much to celebrate over the past two years in the community. Like all festivals, the Coal Dust Days committee was forced to cancel their festival in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and provincial restrictions.

With restrictions lifted and the province now fully reopened, the Coal Dust Days Festival is set to make its return next week with weeklong events kicking off on Monday in the community. 

Joey Lever, board member for Coal Dust Days, said the committee is excited to be back and ready to move past the pandemic-related cancellations. 

“We think the community needs this back,” said Lever. “It’s a chance to be together again after two years of being stuck at home and it’s a chance to gather and celebrate.”

This year will mark the 37th edition of the Coal Dust Days Festival. After being off the past two summers, Lever admits there’s been a bit of an adjustment period preparing for the festival. 

“It’s more about getting our heads around it again,” said Lever, noting the committee began planning for this year’s festival in February. 

“You roll it out the same way every year. There’s a blueprint for Plummer Avenue Day and the car show and we have great partners with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and volunteers who also help us along the way.”

The festival will feature both committee-organized and community-hosted events, running until July 24.

One of the larger events organized by the committee is Plummer Avenue Day, which will feature local vendors, entertainment and games on the town’s main street on Thursday. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will finish with a concert from 7-10:30 p.m. featuring Hearts of Kin and Cherrybomb. 

Lever confirmed vendor spots are almost sold out. He anticipates this year’s Plummer Avenue Day to be a record year. 

“If we have the weather, we’re expecting great crowds and everyone to be out,” said Lever. “It’s a great event for people to bump into each other and see people that they haven’t seen in a while and just get out on the main street where they may not have had that chance in a little while.” 

‘It ran its course’

Among the events not returning this year is the Coal Dust Days Tavern Tour, which was one of the more popular attractions when the festival first began for both participants and local establishments. 

Lever said there were several reasons for the committee discontinuing the event. 

“The crowds have been down the last couple of festivals, a lot of people weren’t attending and that was a big reason for it,” he said. “I think the committee and the bars have dealt with a lot of underage drinkers and stuff, so it was really hard to keep a handle on it and make it safe for everybody.”

While it’s too early to confirm, Lever doesn’t anticipate the committee running the event in future festivals, but it’s not to say a tavern tour won’t happen.

“I don’t foresee the committee planning that event anymore – I think it ran its course,” said Lever. “There’s community-organized events, so if a community group wanted to host such a thing they could put it in the brochure.” 

The festival will also not include a parade this year. Lever said the committee removed itself from parades in 2015, noting a community group had tried to organize those events in the past. 

Other events

Some of the highlighted events for the festival include the Kay MacSween Memorial Walk the Loop at 9 a.m. on Monday at Rose Schwartz Park as well as the Family Walk-In Drive-In at 7 p.m. at the New Waterford and District Community Centre.

The annual antique and custom car show will be held on Tuesday from 6-9 p.m. on Plummer Avenue, while the Susan Coombes Memorial Teddy Bear Picnic and Sobeys Children’s Festival will be held on Wednesday from 1-4 p.m. at Colliery Lands Park. 

The closing concert will take place on July 24 at Colliery Lands Park and will feature The Non Essentials Band, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Fireworks will take place at dusk. 

Some events to look out for are listed below. For a full list of festival events, visit the festival’s Facebook page by searching New Waterford Coal Dust Days.

Coal Dust Days highlights

Monday, July 18

• 9 a.m. – Kay MacSween Memorial Walk the Loop beginning at Rose Schwartz Park

• 7 p.m. – Family Walk-In Drive-In, New Waterford and District Community Centre

Tuesday, July 19

• 10 a.m. – Coal Dust Days Bicycle Rodeo, New Waterford Fire Department

• 6-9 p.m. – 13th annual Antique and Custom Car Show, Plummer Avenue

Wednesday, July 20

• 1-4 p.m. – Susan Coombes Memorial Teddy Bear Picnic and Sobeys Children’s Festival, Colliery Lands Park

Thursday, July 21

• 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Plummer Avenue Day

• 7-10:30 p.m. – Plummer Avenue Day Wrap-Up Party featuring Hearts of Kin and Cherrybomb

Saturday, July 23

• All Day – New Waterford Credit Union Minor Baseball Day

• 12 p.m. – Kids Fun Day, New Waterford Fire Hall

Sunday, July 24

• 7:30-9:30 p.m. – Coal Dust Days Closing Concert, Colliery Lands Park

• Dusk – Fireworks

Jeremy Fraser is a reporter for the Cape Breton Post. Follow him on Twitter @CBPost_Jeremy.

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It looks promising for Cornwall’s CAPE event, just six weeks away

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It’s a go, for CAPE, and it’s not too far off.

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The Cornwall & Area Pop Event will finally have its sixth edition, the first since the mid-spring of 2019, when it returns to the Benson Centre April 23-24, and with tickets currently on sale.

“We’re very excited to have it return,” said Carol Sauve, organizer of the event along with her husband Randy Sauve, the CAPE founder, who had to call off that 2020 edition just a month before the scheduled date.

It would be a no-go again in 2021, too. But, back in mid-June of last year, the Sauves teased the possibility/likelihood of a 2022 event, simply writing “hmmm…” when posting a social media graphic about an 80s theme CAPE and with a vague date of “April 2022?”

They got more bullish on going forward as the year went on, announcing special guests and event details – but there’ve been a lot of ups and downs in recent months.

As Omicron raged late in the fall, the Sauves said that “due to the uncertainty of what the provincial government mandates and protocols will be in April, we will not be selling any advance tickets at this time.”

But, they were feeling fairly certain that, ultimately, this spring, CAPE would return, saying “we know the love and support that this community has for these events and we remain very confident that we will finally (have the events) after a two-year hiatus.”

Randy Sauve on Wedneday said “we’ve been creeping along (at the organizational level), we take all our leads from the health unit and the city (which operates the Benson Centre).”

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Sauve said he was very happy with the fairly recent development that vaccine passports are no longer required – “I don’t want to have to check vax passports (at CAPE) and now I don’t have to worry about that.”

Later this month, mask mandates will be dropped, and it’ll be just around the time of CAPE when the province plans on dropping all remaining pandemic-related measures.

CAPE 2022 – especially the ‘after party,’ has a Remember the 80s theme, because, well, surely everyone loves the 80s.

“(The 80s) are fun,” Sauve said. “That whole decade was cool, (and) this store (Fantasy Realm) opened in 1985.”

And several of this year’s special guests were involved in hits during the 80s; CAPE 2022 will roll out the red carpet for guests including Amanda Bearse, who was a star of the popular TV show Married… with Children, as well as William Ragsdale (Fright Night, Fright Night Part 2), Scott Patterson (Gilmore Girls, Saw IV, Saw V), Abby Hagyard (You Can’t Do That on Television), Yanic Truesdale (Gilmore Girls), and guest artist Dan Day.

Other artists, cosplayers, exhibitors and attractions will be featured, with more information to be released as the weekend draws closer.

The organizers have announced several CAPE-related events and projects, including the CAPE 2022 After Party at the Best Western Parkway Inn and featuring the SamHill Band – performing for the first time in a dozen years.

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And, they’ve announced that five CAPE Ambassadors will be chosen, “energetic and enthusiastic individuals (to) help spread the word about CAPE, post on social media, share photos or video to create excitement and enjoy perks associated with CAPE.”

The last time CAPE was held, in the spring of 2019, over 4,000 people in two days visited the Benson Centre. In its prior years, it set attendance records for the largest event ever to be held at the Benson Centre.

Last mid-August, at the Fantasy Realm store on Pitt Street, there was a Cornwall Cosplay day, held as part of the store’s free comic book day.The combined event attracted well over 200 people to the downtown core, and it had many attendees expressing their hope that CAPE would finally return in the spring.

CAPE quickly became one of the biggest events each year in Cornwall, one of the best years being in the spring of 2018, when, over a two-day period, a record crowd of over 6,000 took in all the sights and sounds and activities on Pad One at the arena.

The Sauves organized the first Cornwall CAPE event in 2015.

And despite all the time off, vendor spots on the Benson Centre floor for this year’s edition are going fast – Carol Sauve said just a handful of them remain available. She said vendors who were booked for 2020 automatically got their spot, and note that anyone holding tickets for two years ago can use them to get into CAPE next month.

For more information on this year’s event, visit

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