Press Release: Ottawa Grassroots Festival and Algonquin College ACES Event Goes Online

For immediate release

UPDATE: April 17, 2020: Click here to view the submissions, and the winners

April 3, 2020 – The Ottawa Grassroots Festival (OGF) and Algonquin College Performing Arts variety show, Algonquin College Entertainers Showcase (ACES), is going virtual. Due to the unfortunate circumstances concerning COVID-19, the public event had to be cancelled. To ensure the time and hard work the students had already put in did not go unrecognized, OGF and Algonquin College decided to take the competition online.

All Performing Arts contestants will submit a video of their performance by April 9th, 2020. A panel of judges will review each video, and decide on four winners (1st, 2nd, 3rd and best video) to be announced April 17, 2020. The celebrity judges are: David Yazbeck, host of CKCU’s Thursday Blend, Rebecca Noelle, award-winning vocalist for The Pep Tides and Cath Kenney, a former musician and artist, and founder of the Performing Arts program at Algonquin College.

Each of the ACES winners will have their video, bio and photo promoted on the OGF’s website and social media sites. The first place winner will receive $175, the second, $125, and the third, $100. An additional winner for best video will receive a Neptunes Music Workshops gift certificate. The festival website will also feature a link to a YouTube page, with all of the performances by the Algonquin Performing Arts Students.

Bob Nesbitt, OGF Producer is determined to see the ACES show go on, “It would be great to keep the partnership alive and keep the students inspired. These students are important because some of them are tomorrow’s Headliners. I have always been interested in helping students, so if you can think of other ways the festival can help, we will listen.”

Teri Loretto, a professor of Performing Arts, TV Broadcasting at Algonquin College and ACES collaborator, says, “These talented students were able to overcome a lot of roadblocks set in front of them by the current crisis. When the stages closed, they stepped up and onto the internet.”

“Sadly, we were forced to cancel this year’s Ottawa Grassroots Festival because of COVID-19, for the health and safety of all involved. The festival was organized in every way, and all set to go in April. We are especially sorry we can’t showcase the artists we had selected for 2020, as it was a particularly good lineup with many top notch artists. As 2020 would have been our 9th year, this means that 2021 is really our 10th year, and an anniversary to mark. We intend 2021 to be very special!” says Nesbitt.

During this period of social isolation, many are performing music – our universal language – outdoors, or on the internet. We look forward to joining them, and celebrating the ACES student winners online!

The Grassroots Festival is a family-friendly gathering of folk music, dance and spoken word. It’s called Grassroots because it is! This not-for-profit organization is run entirely by volunteers, and prides itself for the well-known and emerging performers, and participatory workshops it provides, cultivating community, embracing diversity and nurturing inclusivity in a fun and friendly way.

Media contacts:

Bob Nesbitt
Grace Smith

“The Ottawa Grassroots Festival: Cultivating Community.”

Ottawa Grassroots Festival update on the COVID-19 virus

March 19, 2020 -The world is being faced with an unprecedented outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. As of March 15. Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, estimates there could be up to 1,000 cases of COVID-19 currently in Ottawa. She urged residents to “strengthen their social distancing measures”, cancel any planned events and “not go out for non-essential reasons.” The numbers are expected to increase. The province is now in a state of emergency. 

Bob Nesbitt, Founder and Producer of The Ottawa Grassroots Festival is closely monitoring information being shared by all of the public health agencies at all levels of government and is also in close communication with Ottawa Festivals, The health and safety of our community is extremely important. It is for this reason we are announcing the cancellation of the 2020 festival. We would like to thank all the artists who were scheduled to perform this year and we encourage everyone to visit the performers page on the website for ways you can connect and support them through this very difficult time.

We all need to continue monitoring the updates offered by Ottawa Public Health at: 

Coronaviruses are spread mainly from person to person through close contact. At this time, it is CRITICAL we practice social distancing, as described at the Ottawa Public Health website:

 Taking these steps will reduce exposure to the virus and protect your health:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Sneeze and cough into your sleeve
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid shaking hands
  • Stay home if you are sick

We recognize the situation with respect to the virus is fluid. You can also stay connected with Ottawa Grassroots through these channels


“The Ottawa Grassroots Festival: Cultivating Community.”


Ottawa Grassroots will deliver an energy filled experience rich with local Folk, Indigenous sounds and foot stomping entertainment

February 26, 2020 – The Ottawa Grassroots Festival (OGF) celebrated their 9th launch event yesterday with an impressive Tuesday afternoon crowd at the iconic, Irene’s Pub in the Glebe. Bob Nesbitt, Founder and Festival Producer, revealed another gender balanced roster of performers and workshops to eager volunteers, sponsors and festival supporters. Performances by Mia Kelly and Don Bray provided spirited musical interludes and a sampling of the local rich programming at the festival. OGF 2020 will take place from April 23-26, 2020 at its new location, St. Andrew’s Church, 82 Kent St. (at Wellington), in Ottawa Centre.

Nesbitt officially released the full line-up which celebrates the incredible talent residing within the Ottawa/Gatineau region. “I’m really excited about the partnership Grassroots has made with the Performing Arts Program at Algonquin College. The talent night winners will be performing at the festival and I have arranged for a mentor for each of the winners to help them prepare for the debut performance at Grassroots and make them feel at ease.” said Nesbitt. “It’s great to see so many people here today…our best turnout ever!”

Guest speaker, Teri Loretto, an Algonquin College Professor, CBC’s media weather team member, and fill in host of In Town and Out, spoke of the importance in offering students opportunities to perform, network and build connections in the community. “There is so much talent in this area…diverse talent that is underappreciated. The Grassroots Festival has filled a niche in our festival circuit locally that I think is extremely necessary.” Loretto continues, “ACES (Algonquin College Entertainers Showcase) will see 30 students competing for three spots and they will be paid, which is generous beyond generous… It’s places like the Grassroots Festival that offer a safe, positive, nurturing environment for the artists of tomorrow…The college is excited…The partnership is strong and if this goes well, next year we want to open up the competition to our Indigenous Pathways students and the Music Industry Arts Program.” Teri Loretto announced two of the celebrity judges as Rebecca Noelle (The Peptides and 1st runner up of La Voix in 2019) and David Yazbeck (Ravenlaw partner, CKCU radio host of the Thursday Special Blend and FACTOR judge). The third judge will be announced soon. Rowena Pearl, musician and popular music teacher, emceed the launch. She kept the event flowing smoothly with her infectious enthusiasm.

Grassroots’ evening programming announced in late 2019 showcases top local favourites. The 2020 festival kicks off with a high energy co-headliner program featuring bilingual, folky songstress Kristine St-Pierre and Band and the sounds of folk infused, roots, East Coast bluegrass of Jessica Pearson and the East Wind. Newfoundland’s folk pop duo, Quote the Raven are opening the festival with their smooth melodies and lush harmonies.

The Friday night (April 24) line-up is sure to get your feet tapping and your hips swinging with the Vanier Playboys, Ottawa’s first and only Zydeco band. Zydeco music mixes blues, R&B, reggae, and rock from SW Louisiana and East Texas with influences from Africa, the Caribbean and Native American cultures. Their set begins with a Zydeco dance lesson for the audience which they can practice once the band begins! The “blues lady” singer/songwriter, Maria Hawkins opens this Ottawa rich night of performances

Multi-award-winning husband and wife folk duo, Twin Flames (Chelsey June and Jaaji) headline an Indigenous experience Saturday evening at Ottawa Grassroots. Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont opens the evening delivering a prayer/address followed by Larissa Desrosiers, an Anishinaabekwe Singer/Songwriter from Couchiching First Nation in Treaty #3 offering a blend of folk-inspired sounds highlighting Indigenous issues.

Daytime performers confirmed are The North Woods, the Ottawa Baroque Consort, From Away, Janice Jo Lee, David Mayerovitch and JP Lacroix, Orit Shimoni, Don Bray, Sjef Frenken, Chris White. Mia Kelly, and trick fiddler, Jess Wedden. Anne Hurley and Jim Videto perform with Kate Marshall Flaherty. The festival also welcomes Eric Bawden (Spoken Word) and Devianterra (Sophia York Band).

The free daytime programming remains true to Ottawa Grassroots fans with engaging, fun-filled workshops for all ages in a family friendly way. A Saturday afternoon song circle featuring the evening headliners is always a big hit at the festival. Look for Gil’s Grassroots Hootenanny, Neptune Music’s Workshop, KidZone with Selina Bishop and Babies & Toddlers participatory workshop – with Kristine St-Pierre to draw musical inspiration. Open Stage with Sjef Frenken, Local Colour and a Jam Session with Paul Spafford are returning highlights. There are three spots yet to be announced that will be filled by the ACES variety show winners, to be held on April 9th, at Algonquin College.

Online tickets and festival passes for Ottawa Grassroots evening performances are available via the festival website. A festival pass is $59 (online); $60 at the door. Ticket prices for individual nights are: $25-Thurs., $20-Fri. and $35-Sat. The daytime programming on both Saturday and Sunday is FREE – no tickets required!

The Grassroots Festival is a family-friendly gathering of folk music, dance and spoken word. It’s called Grassroots because it is! This not-for-profit organization is run entirely by volunteers and prides itself for the participatory workshops it provides, cultivating community and nurturing inclusivity in a fun and friendly way.

Media contacts:

Bob Nesbitt:
Grace Smith:
Algonquin College:
Teri Loretto:

Local Folk Shine in Evening Line-up at Ottawa Grassroots 2020

November 26, 2019 – Ottawa Grassroots Festival (OGF) is thrilled to announce the evening line-up for the 9th edition of this musical gem. Local favourites shine in this gender-balanced headliner roster which includes Twin Flames (April 25), Kristine St-Pierre, Jessica Pearson and The East Wind (April 23), and The Vanier Playboys (April 24). It all happens April 23-26, 2020 at the new festival venue: St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 82 Kent Street, centrally located with ample free parking.

Indigenous performances will fill the sanctuary on the Saturday evening. Albert Dumont, Algonquin Spiritual Advisor, returns to Ottawa Grassroots and will share poetry and an opening prayer. The folk-inspired sounds and social justice issues sung by Larissa Desrosier, an Anishinaabekwe singer\songwriter from Couchiching First Nation and Fort Frances , will open for the multi-award-winning band, Twin Flames. This Indigenous husband and wife duo is made up of Chelsey June and Jaaji. Jaaji is Inuk and Mohawk from Nunavik and Chelsey June, Métis (Algonquin Cree) from Ottawa. Twin Flames push the boundaries of “Contemporary Folk”, with songs that incorporate Western and traditional instruments.

Opening night (April 23) will start with Newfoundland’s Quote the Raven. Jordan Coaker and Kirsten Rodden-Clarke are firing far beyond their artistic age. Their complexities and depth are complemented by effortless syncing of styles and personalities. Bob Nesbitt , OGF’s Festival Founder and Producer has programmed local favourites Jessica Pearson and the East Wind, along with Kristine St-Pierre and her full band in a double bill evening. Both acts have new releases to share with their fans. St-Pierre’s soul-searching ballads and a rollicking bluesy flair, along with blends of folk, roots and East Coast bluegrass by Pearson will make for a delicious palate of folk flavours certain to get the audience moving.

If you love moving, Grassroots 2020 promises to get their Friday audience dancing . “Participation is key at Grassroots and the Vanier Playboys are up for the task. The audience will learn dance steps, then put them to practice”, beams Nesbitt. “It will be a heap of fun.” The Vanier Playboys is the only Zydeco band in Ottawa – made up of Ball & Chain and The Wreckers, plus Antoine Larocque, a great accordion player from Montreal. This evening opens with Maria Hawkins, who combines Roots, Blues, R&B and Funk and radiates energy and confidence with songs that are sometimes funny and always heartfelt.

“Grassroots fans will find Francophone artists woven throughout the 4-day festival programming”, said Nesbitt. “I’m still committed to bringing the two music solitudes together”. The full daytime roster will be revealed at the festival launch in February 2020.

Online tickets and festival passes for Ottawa Grassroots evening performances will be available on the festival website before Christmas. OGF continues to keep its pricing affordable for families (children 15 and under are free when accompanied by an adult). Early-bird pricing for the festival pass is $55. The pass increases to $60, starting Feb. 1 2020. Ticket prices for individual nights are: $25-Thurs., $20-Fri. and $35-Sat. Daytime programming on Saturday and Sunday is FREE for everyone!

The Grassroots Festival is a family-friendly gathering of folk music, dance and spoken word. This not-for-profit organization prides itself on the participatory workshops it provides, cultivating community and nurturing inclusivity and diversity in fun and friendly ways. Ottawa Grassroots is made possible by the dedication of over 100 volunteers working together to bring visitors a really special musical experience.

“The Ottawa Grassroots Festival: Cultivating Community.”
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