When love came to town, it took out the trash.
The One Love Order @ The Border music festival brought hundreds of reggae, soul and jazz fans to Niagara Falls for a three-day event, but it also led to the creation of The Grove, a new venue on Niagara Parks Commission land. It opened Friday and continued through Sunday.
One Love Order @ The Border was hosted by Real Music Group, a Toronto concert event company that hopes to use the new venue for future gospel and hip-hop festivals.
"Order is a very strong word. The order we're giving is love," said Thomas Tripodi, president of Real Music Group, the Toronto concert promotions company that organized One Love Niagara.
Performers like Demolition Man used their music to promote love, peace and respect. "It's about education. It's about love. It's about respect your mother. It's about respect your father," the singer said between songs Saturday night.
Niagara Falls is the right place for the heavily reggae festival, Tripodi said, because of its long association with love, but also because of its history of peace along the Canada-U.S. border and the love the two countries share across the border.
"It's a world-class location. It's just missing a world-class venue," Tripodi said. "It has a Vegas-like atmosphere that hasn't been exploited like Vegas."
Tickets for the Friday-to-Sunday festival were $49 a day with a $30 premium for access to the VIP lounge, a tent big enough for 1,200 people, complete with bar and lounge areas. Real Music Group plans to make One Love Niagara an annual event and is considering bringing a gospel and hip-hop festivals to The Grove venue in the future.
Booking artists like Faith Evans, The Whisperers, Errol Dunkley, Edi Fitzroy and Joe Stephens meant that reggae fans had a reason to get in the car and head to Niagara Falls, Tripodi said. Fans from western New York and southern Ontario will travel to see those acts, he said.
"They have their own following. They will draw."
The Niagara Parks Commission, which manages the public property around the falls and along the Niagara River, converted an old maintenance facility into The Grove, an open-air space nestled between the Oak Hall moraine and the Floral Showhouse, just south of the Horseshoe Falls.
The area used to be used to be used for handling the garbage generated by nearby commission attractions and other maintenance duties until they were recently relocated to a new facility.
The conversion resulted in a new open space bordered by the lush trees of the Niagara Escarpment and the woodlot behind the Floral Showhouse and the old Canadian Niagara Power plant.
When organizers of the One Love Niagara event pitched an outdoors event last summer, it spurred the parks commission to create a new space big enough to hold 12,000 people. The area is also big enough to host temporary sporting events.
Bobby Harris, the front man for DAZZ Band, a California-based R&B/Funk act, said Niagara "is right" for this kind of event.
"People know our music up here. People know our music in Buffalo. People know our music in Toronto." Bringing a range of performers within the reggae, soul and jazz genres to Niagara will help One Love Order @ The Border attract a crowd, Harris said. "Having the diversity of the music and the artists - that's going to give the spot what it needs. Something for everybody."
For a first-year event, One Love Order @ The Border was able to attract fans from the Greater Toronto Area, said painter Magic Finga Wong, who tours with some of the musicians. He painted some of the promotional signs that dotted the Niagara Parkway on the weekend.
Now that it's established, the music festival has to get more attention for next year, he said. "You gotta make a lotta noise, a lotta buzz," he said.
Still, with the majority of fans coming from the GTA, the event helped Niagara's tourism industry, said Nakisha Murray, a fan from Brampton.