Article: Country Open may be back in 2015

Chris Renaud hopes country music fans will have their own venue back for the 2015 version of

Summer in the Park.

The Country Open Singing Contest, part of the North Bay Heritage Festival and Summer in the Park for 25 years, didn’t play a part in this year’s festival.

But Renaud plans to be back next year, either in North Bay or another nearby community.

“The Country Open was such a huge success over the years,” Renaud, a member of the Nipissing Country Music Association, said Sunday.

Performers from as far away as Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia have taken part in the local event, with up to 6,000 people taking in the show.

“It’s not just local people who want to sing,” Renaud said. “People have come in from Sudbury, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie, Ottawa – they’ve come from four or five hours away to participate in the weekend.”

He also has pictures of people setting up their chairs and umbrellas a 5 a.m. on show day so they would have good seats.

“It’s amazing how supportive they all are,” Renaud said.

Renaud said there have been disputes between organizers and city staff in the past, which led to the decision not to run the contest this past year.

“It was nice before, when they incorporated stuff around us – the midway, the petting zoo – and made us feel part” of the Summer in the Park, he said.

But over the last few years, he said, co-operation with the city seemed to be lacking, leading his father, local musician Harley Renaud, to throw up his arms in despair.

“After all the work over all those years, we were put on the back burner,” Renaud said, with the venue, which normally ran until 6 p.m. on the Sunday of Summer in the Park, being shut down at 3 p.m.

“It was so hurtful” to his father to be “pretty much kicked off the stage like that,” he said.

The contest has never had fewer than 50 contestants, and in the last few years attracted up to 80 performers.

“When you look at that, and that each brings three or four members of the family to the city, the number of people coming to town, supporting merchants, hotels, restaurants, is pretty impressive.”

He said he hopes the association and city can reach an agreement on the contest for next year, but said other venues, including Sturgeon Falls and Mattawa, have offered to host the contest.

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