The sixth-annual Port Music Festival returns this weekend, led by a duo with a passion for supporting youth in the area.
Run by husband and wife Kasey and Katie Carruthers, the festival is a non-profit, free for all ages music festival that helps raise money for the Collingwood Youth Centre (CYC).
“The event itself is providing recreation and culture to the community, but then in addition to that, we are also raising some money for the local youth,” said Katie.
Over 30 artists and musicians will be performing over the course of the two-day festival, including Kasey and his stepson, Maverick, who will perform together on the first day of the festival.
The festival itself was founded by Kasey in 2016 to fill a need he saw.
“We were looking for a venue for grassroots people to play,” he said. “There are a lot of bars around and opportunities for the more seasoned musicians, but it is hard for the younger people and the not-so-experienced people to actually find somewhere to perform.”
Kasey has been playing music since he was 20 years old and would often travel to Newmarket to open for a friend’s band. His friends kept pushing him to find a venue in Collingwood where they could play together.
“I ended up just making a music festival instead. It just seemed so much easier…” joked Kasey.
Held at the Shipyard Amphitheatre, the festival started small in its first year, but it caught the attention of the town and resulted in Kasey running a small music program at Connaught Public School.
Just before year two of the festival, Kasey met Katie, and she’s helped grow both the festival and the subsequent youth programs ever since.
Both of Katie’s parents are musicians, and she was put into music classes at a very young age. Over the years, she’s played everything from piano and violin to bass and drums. She realized that while she loved playing music, she liked the recording and engineering side of it better, so she attended college for audio engineering and production.
In 2019, they decided to move the music program to the Collingwood Youth Centre to expand their reach. Every year since at least half of the proceeds from The Port Music Festival are donated directly to the centre.
When the pandemic broke in 2020, Kasey and Katie thought they had no choice but to cancel the festival that summer.
“But we thought, let’s figure out a virtual show,” said Katie. “So we switched our efforts and it seemed to work pretty well.”
Despite not being able to raise as much money for the centre that year, without their standard t-shirt sales and in-person donations, they were able to expand their audience reach immensely.
Over the first four years of the festival, they totalled about 1,500 attendees. Through streaming the shows live online last year, they hit almost 20,000 views and were able to host artists from around the world.
“We thought if we have this platform this year to get the word out to more people, let’s do that,” said Katie. “So we decided to focus on trying to promote younger musicians and the youth centre, and show people the programs they offer.”
With all the uncertainty this year, they planned to stream the festival online once again, and have doubled down on their promotion, advertising and marketing.
“It looks like we might do really well this year,” said Kasey. “So that’s exciting to be able to bring bigger numbers to the centre.”
Next year they hope to be back at the Amphitheatre, but still plan to stream the shows online as well.
“Neither of us could do any of this without the support of the other,” said Katie.
“We really are a team,” Kasey added. “I never could have brought it to this level without her.”
While they now average over 100 band applications each year, they prioritize trying to encourage as many youth to perform as possible.
“There are so many kids who want to learn or try music but maybe their family or friends don’t have the equipment or knowledge or drive to do things like this,” said Kasey.
Motivated by their own love for music, the husband and wife team continue to work to foster a love for music in their children and in the youth of the community.
“The festival is about having this platform to give youth and new musicians a way to perform and get their music out there,” Katie added. “Some of these kids are just amazing.”The festival supported financially by the Town of Collingwood through its Community Recreation & Culture Grant.