"Here I am, on the road again."
Lyrics to Bob Seger's hit song were belted out by a solo acoustic performer Saturday afternoon in Fredericton's downtown, a fitting selection given that the Harvest Music Festival is one of the first major events to take place since the start of the pandemic.
That includes international musicians travelling to perform for thousands of fans once again shoulder to shoulder.
Masks are encouraged but not required. But everyone in attendance is fully vaccinated.
Organizers of the festival adopted the proof-of-vaccination policy weeks ago — before the New Brunswick government announced its intentions to bring in a similar policy.
The festival comes in the middle of the fourth wave of COVID-19. New Brunswick had 63 cases on Wednesday, the highest daily number for the province since the pandemic began.
Brent Staeben, the festival's music director, said a vaccination policy was the only way the festival could happen this year.
The festival is smaller than most years, but it is still everything fans of the festival love, including multiple nights of big-name headliners.
There were more than 2,500 people inside the Harvest Blues Tent to see the return of Jason Isbell, who was a fan-favorite during the last large-scale festival in 2019.
Staeben said most people are complying with the vaccination policy. Only about two dozen people have been turned away.
"It was almost like a test of whether we were really serious," he said of several people trying to get into the festival without adhering to the vaccination policy.
Concertgoers said they appreciate the guidelines and having to present their vaccine record didn't bother them.
Stephen Giggey said he felt safe attending the festival despite being surrounded by a crowd for the first time in a year and a half.
"I think it's a great idea. It protects everyone."
Staeben said this festival was one of the most challenging to organize. He said it has all been worth it to bring normalcy back to the community.