Ridgefest ‘plays it forward’ with donation to Brandon University School of Music

A group of people stand in front of the BU School of Music with a large amount of money fanned out.
Photo, from left: Jeff Crooks (Owner/operator of Smitty’s Restaurants and Smitty’s Sportsline Lounge in Brandon), Lyall McDermid (Ridgefest co-founder), Frank McGwire (Ridgefest co-founder), Dr. Wendy Zander McCallum (Brandon University music professor), Carla Eisler (BU Director of Advancement & Alumni Affairs), and Paige Cuvelier (BU Development Officer).

Funds raised from a special anniversary party celebrating a grassroots Brandon music festival will go right back towards supporting the next generation of local musicians.

The Ridgefest 20th anniversary party held earlier this month raised $2,000 in proceeds that have now been donated to the Brandon University School of Music, where they will buoy scholarships and bursaries that continue supporting the next generation of local musicians.

“It’s just so fitting to keep working with our local music community and those who support it,” said Ridgefest co-founder Frank McGwire. “To see everything come full circle and donate money from this event to the BU School of Music makes me and the entire committee extremely happy.”

Brandon University music professor Dr. Wendy Zander McCallum, who was present to help accept the donation, said that thoughtful supports like this are essential since they allow students to focus on consistent musical development, and added that BU’s noteworthy record of producing dedicated music educators ensures that the impact of this donation will be felt far and wide.

“Brandon University School of Music trained musicians are making music across the country and around the world, and we are fortunate to have so many students and graduates enriching our community here in Westman,” she said. “Music brings people together in unique and memorable ways, and we are so thankful for the support of community musicians.”

Ridegfest was a local music festival first held in 2004 on the north side field behind Deer Ridge Golf Course. The following year it moved to Planet KIA’s front lot, and then to the Planet KIA back lot, where it was held from 2006–15.

“We took several years off after the 2015 edition of the festival,” McGwire said, “but we felt the timing was right to have some sort of celebration for the 20th anniversary of the festival.”

This year’s 20th anniversary was held at The 40, the traditional Ridgefest venue for kick-off parties and after-parties as well as backup location when rain shut down the outdoor site. The anniversary celebration featured local performers Geezer, The Invisible Men, 8 Track Shuffle, Matt Cory Band, Amber Solomon aka AMBAM, The Ashbury Dyke, and Tangled.

“What an amazing weekend celebrating the local music scene! A huge thank you from the bottom of our hearts goes out to all the bands who donated their time,” McGwire said. “Your efforts and creativity have resulted in some very good news for the BU School of Music to supports musicians and performers of the future.”

Charitable donations have long been a part of Ridgefest, which over the years has donated about $25,000 to organizations such as The Cancer Society, Westman Dreams for Kids, and The Westman Women’s Resource Centre.

McGwire also thanked Ridegefest volunteers Wanda Leigh Rains, Mandy Moore, and Cam Toews, along with Ridgefest sponsors Planet KIA, Smitty’s Restaurant and Smitty’s Sportsline Lounge, Ted Good Music, Webber Printing, and Lady Light B-Town Medium, as well as sponsor and host venue The 40, its staff and management.

Live performances at the Ridgefest 20th anniversary party were captured by WCGtv and will be shown in cable access in the future.

“Most of our sponsors and volunteers have been with us since day one,” McGwire said. “These are key people who like us, not only believe in the local music scene but strive to keep it vibrant.”


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