A one-day outdoor music festival in Tampa, Florida, featuring Three Dog Night in 2000 inspired Greg Adams to organize similar events in the Cowichan Valley.
Adams, owner of the Valley’s Wideglide Entertainment, which sponsors the popular Sunfest country music festival, has lived in the Valley since 1965 when his father began work at the Crofton pulp mill.
Adams, who is also a former NHL forward and construction business veteran, lived in the U.S. for 10 of those years where he attended many outdoor festivals and events with his family.
But it was after the Wine and Rib Music Festival featuring Three Dog Night and a number of other bands that he began to envision bringing big-name musical acts to the Valley, and hosting festivals that people from around the world would want to attend.
“I thought that there was no reason why we couldn’t do that at home,” Adams said from his Duncan office.
“Bringing in world-class entertainers to our little town is very rewarding. So many people from here can’t afford to go to places like Seattle to see these acts, so it’s great that we can bring them here.”
Starting out with a one-day rock concert at Providence Farm 17 years ago, featuring 54-40 and a couple of bands from the Island, Wideglide Entertainment now sponsors three music festivals each year at its new property at Laketown Ranch, a 172-acre event site in Lake Cowichan, and is looking to add even more.
Wideglide Entertainment hosts the four-day Sunfest Festival, which will held this year from Aug. 3-6 and feature country superstar Toby Keith, among a multitude of other acts.
More than 40,000 people from all over the world attended last year’s Sunfest over the four days it was held.
Thousands more people are also expected to attend Wideglide’s first annual four-day Laketown Rock festival during the upcoming Victoria Day long weekend, May 19-21, which will feature classic and contemporary rock bands.
As well, Wideglide’s second annual Legends Valley Music Festival will take place in Laketown Ranch from Aug 23-27.
“We have people come from all over Western Canada and the northwest U.S., as well as many from Europe and Australia, attend Sunfest every year,” Adams said.
“We expect more people to come to the Valley as we begin hosting other events and festivals at Laketown Ranch. We have zoning that allows us to use our Mainstage for 15 days each year, and we’re currently using it just nine days so we’re looking to host more.”
Wideglide Entertainment employs just six office people full-time, but up to 300 local workers and volunteers are brought in every year to help organize and run Sunfest and the company’s other festivals.
Adams said Wideglide buys approximately 90 per cent of its supplies locally as well.
“There are some supplies and services we have to bring in, like a sound and light company that we use from Vancouver, but almost everything else we need comes from the Valley and the region,” he said.
Adams said Wideglide is also keen on supporting local charities and non-profit groups.
He said Wideglide has formed the Laketown Benevolent Society that, to date, has donated approximately $750,000 in cash and in-kind donations to local groups that are related to children and health, and also sponsors numerous scholarships.
“It’s very challenging to run this company, but we find it very exciting and rewarding too,” Adams said.