BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE BOOTS AND HEARTS FESTIVAL
Boots and Hearts is the largest country music festival in Canada. And one of the largest in North America.
With tens of thousands of attendees and hundreds of staff on site for the four day event, it’s a colossal undertaking. Republic Live presents the event every year. And they, literally, build a city to host the fun.
At the centre of this endeavor is Lisa Zechmesiter, the primary Talent Buyer for Republic Live. Lisa coordinates, accommodates, organizes and oversees many aspects of the Boots experience.
We chatted with her about just what happens behind the scenes to pull this monumental event off.
HOW MASSIVE AN UNDERTAKING IS IT TO PUT THIS FESTIVAL ON EVERY YEAR?
“It’s huge. We build a city for this event and then tear it all down again. Everything from the stage construction, to the portable toilets and showers, generators, water for the campgrounds, production offices, artist dressing rooms, bars, catering rooms, even painting the lines on the ground for every single RV and campsite, all that has to be done from scratch.
And then to have it all taken down and three days later, leave the grounds suitable for soccer by returning the grounds to it’s proper existence, it’s remarkable”
HOW MANY PEOPLE, BEGINNING TO END, DO YOU NEED TO PULL THIS OFF?
“We have about 20 full time staff working year round on it; operations, sponsorship, creative, ticketing, financing and finding talent. We have a volunteer team going out to trade shows and conventions to promote Boots and Hearts year round.
Then you’ve got hundreds of security staff. There’s a large production team that works with the artists on building the stage and including the artist elements. You’ve also got a big skilled labour contingent who come in and set up the stage. There are hundreds of bartenders, bar back staff and maintenance personnel keeping the site clean and running. And there are contractors on top of that, coming in to pump out the washrooms and refill the beer kegs. So it’s hard to put a definite number on it, but certainly thousands.”
WHEN YOU ARE BOOKING THE ARTISTS FOR THE FESTIVAL, WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR?
“With this being Canada’s largest country festival, we certainly have artists that are knocking on the door to be a part of it. Our emerging artist showcase is great for that; anyone in Canada can submit a video and apply to be in the showcase with the top eight making it to the festival. And our finalists get to record a song with a major label.
As for the headliners, I’m sourcing that a year to two years in advance. It’s important to find a balance between an act that our audience wants to see but also evaluating how often and how recently they’ve been in the local marketplace. And it’s got to be the right mix of sounds every day, so that fans have a varied experience. This crowd are very savvy; they know who’s an up and comer, who’s an established performer and who’s going to be the next big star.
CAMPING IS A HUGE PART OF THIS. HOW MANY TENTS AND RVS CAN YOU ACCOMMODATE AT BURL’S CREEK? AND WHAT IS THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE FOR GUESTS?
“This is the lovely part of having a 600 acre parcel of land. We haven’t hit a point yet where we have sold out or run out of camping sites.
And it’s definitely a huge part of the Boots experience. There are people who come for tent camping and really want the experience of coming in and setting up next door to someone you don’t know, to meet new friends. We actually have someone on our staff right now who is roommates with a guy he met while camping at Boots and Hearts many years ago. So these are, in some cases, life long friendships that are made here.
BEYOND FINANCIALS, OR NUMBERS OF PEOPLE ATTENDING, HOW DO YOU MEASURE SUCCESS?
For us, it’s word of mouth and people who keep coming back. We have so many fans who return year after year and brings others with them; they make it a part of their life and come every summer. And that really is the recipe for long term success in the festival space.
And you can see it on social media, whenever we post something relating to the festival, it’s literally thousands of people tagging their friends to make sure they see that. I can’t buy an ad that’s more effective than that.
I’d like to say it’s the environment we’ve created, but it’s really the environment they’ve created”
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