OTTAWA — Nearly 24 hours before the nightmarish destruction of the main stage at his festival, Ottawa Bluesfest founder Mark Monahan sat outside a trailer that was away from the crowd and talked about the dream that had come true. It started nearly two decades ago on a hunch and has turned into a multi-million-dollar, non-profit celebration of music. In the aftermath of what’s been called a freakish accident that reportedly sent four people to the hospital, talk of what Monahan has accomplished has to be tempered with somber acknowledgement of the incident on Sunday night that brought a premature end to what looks like another record year of attendance and revenue for the festival.
Still, despite the storm and near 100-kilometre winds that forced Cheap Trick away from the stage, the Ottawa Bluesfest remains one of the most noteworthy music events in North America. It started when Monahan was running the Penguin, a music club in the nation’s capital that booked a range of artists, including jazz acts who collectively would garner large numbers at festivals in Montreal and Vancouver but individually — without a massive marketing effort — didn’t bring in crowds.