KITCHENER -- The Kitchener Blues Festival kicks off Friday, marking the first large-scale music event in Waterloo Region since the pandemic began.

Eight venues across downtown are hosting shows on Friday. The festival, dubbed Crossroads 2021, begins at 7 p.m. and runs through the weekend.

There will be 58 shows in total featuring some of the region's top musicians, including Cheryl Lescom and the Tuscon Choir Boys, 54 40 and The Trews.

Festival organizer Rob Barkshire says while this summer's Blues Festival may not look the same as in previous years, he promises it won't disappoint music lovers.

"Our goal is to bring in this great entertainment and show the folks a great time," he said. "There's something for everyone, there's solo acts, duo acts, trios, full groups, horn sections, blues covers, so many different types of music."

For local musicians, the festival signals the welcome return of in-person concerts.

"The vibes are going to be great because everyone's going to be jonesing to play and everyone's jonesing to get out and see live music," said musician Jesse Webber. "The festival always attracts more people, so it will be nice to meet some new faces and new friends."

"You just have to have fun with it and have a good time because it's almost been a year and I'm just happy to be back," said Kitchener musician Shawn Kellerman.

The full schedule for Crossroads 2021 can be found here.


The Kitchener Blues Festival is implementing COVID-19 safety protocols for this year's festival.

"There's no dancing, getting up and walking around and do that sort of stuff but we're hoping everyone is still going to have a grand time," said T.J. McNamara, owner of Crabby Joe's in downtown Kitchener.

Safety for musicians will also be top of mind.

"Everyone brings their own drums and everything and not too many hands are touching everybody's personal gear," Kellerman said.

Other safety protocols include:

  • Tables physically distances
  • Personal protective equipment available
  • Hand sanitizer stations
  • Patrons must stay seated at tables; no dancing allowed
  • Masks must be worn when not at your table
  • Capacity limits