Huron Waves Music Festival just concluded its 2023 season, and the five-week festival was a triumph. Over 4,000 people viewed the centrepiece of the Festival, an enchanting, 6-metre wide, slowly rotating, luminous sculpture of our Earth called GAIA. Over half of the attendees were students, many visiting the GAIA exhibit with school groups. GAIA drew plenty of attention to the Festival and fueled attendance at the Festival’s eclectic musical presentations. The concerts featured jazz fused with Indigenous music, Tomson Highway and colleagues’ musical theatre “Cree Cabaret”, opera singers and orchestral musicians making the most of Trivitt Church’s superb acoustics in a pair of oratorios, and a unique sound installation that blended lovely singing with field recordings of ice crackling in the Arctic. It is a point of pride for the Festival that the high quality artistic offerings also addressed critical contemporary issues such as climate change, homophobia, and the contributions of Indigenous people to Canadian culture.

It is remarkable how many people and organizations deserve credit for the success of the Festival. If it takes a village to raise a child, it truly takes a County (and beyond) to present a music festival.

John Miller, our Artistic Director, had the brilliant vision and splendid connections to bring GAIA to Exeter. Carolyn Young, General Manager of the Festival, worked tirelessly and confidently on all the logistics. The Board of Directors devoted their time, creativity, and financial resources; huge thanks to James Bannerman, Cass Bayley, Rekha Lal, Jane Orr, and Nargis Tarmohamed.

Countless sponsors and donors gave generously, most notably Mac Voisin and Marcela Bahar, owners of The White Squirrel Golf Club & Restaurant in St. Joseph. Without the generosity of Mac and Marcela, community builders extraordinaire, it would not have been possible to bring GAIA to Exeter. The Province of Ontario, OCAF, RTO4, TD Bank, The County of Huron / Community Futures Huron, Anne Walsh, Dorothy Washbern, and Jayne Fryman Laird also made significant financial contributions to the Festival. Special thanks to Lisa Thompson, MPP, and to Jayden’s Mechanical for assistance with the installation of GAIA.

The giving and community-minded congregation of Trivitt Church in Exeter allowed the removal of their pews and gave the Festival the use of their stnningly beautiful, acoustically magnificent building for nearly two months. Special thanks to Reverend Wendy Mencel and wardens Rick McCarty and Rob Cornish.

The Municipality of South Huron encouraged and supported the Festival in countless ways, including the storage of the church pews, and closing Baldwin Street to permit the exhibition of a Map of Canada from Space (courtesy of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society of Ottawa). Special thanks to Mayor George Finch.

The Rotary Club of Grand Bend stepped up to help support the costs of students who attended Gaia. The club is perennially a key supporter of virtually every positive community endeavour in Grand Bend and area.

The Sunset Community Foundation supported our programming involving Indigenous artists, specifically allowing for Tomson Highway to visit Kettle & Stony Point Hillside School.

The Festival was very fortunate to have an exceptional staff including Remington North, Kelly Lyn Baird, Melissa Schenk, Pat Morden, Lisa Reaume, Robin Plokhaar, and Thomas Smithson. Also, many community members kindly stepped forward to volunteer at the GAIA exhibit. Special thanks to volunteer team leader Maureen Cole.

It is always a great risk to name names, as inevitably someone of great importance is overlooked. If that person is you, sincere apologies, and thank you very much.

On her visit to GAIA, our great friend and supporter Lisa Thompson, MPP, marveled at the sculpture and asked, “How are you going to top that!?” That is the great challenge we look forward to as we create plans for the Festival in 2024.

This much we know for certain: it will take a County…


Paul Ciufo

President, Huron Waves Music Festival