In-person tourism festival returns to Gros Morne National Park

·3 min read
The Tablelands loom large over Bonne Bay and the approach to Norris Point. (Troy Turner/CBC - image credit)
The Tablelands loom large over Bonne Bay and the approach to Norris Point. (Troy Turner/CBC - image credit)
Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

They're back — and they're hoping locals and tourists alike will take in what they have to offer.

For the past 17 years, the Trails Tales Tunes Festival has been the unofficial kick-off to the tourism season in Gros Morne National Park, in western Newfoundland.

Even during the pandemic, the Norris Point-based festival survived, albeit in a different form.

Following a virtual event in 2020, organizers of the festival managed to offer a hybrid event last season, with severely reduced capacity for some elements and online only for others.

This year, it's back to the stable of live and in-person events the festival was built on.

"We're really excited to get back and we're kind of feeling that anticipating and that buildup that was missing for the past couple years," said Gregory Knott, festival co-chair. "People are just ready to get back into the theatres and into the halls, listen to some great live music, check out the sites."

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

Trails Tales Tunes began as a way to boost tourism in the Bonne Bay area during the spring tourism season. It's always offered a mix of outdoor events, and entertainment from local talent, as well as those from across the province and some international acts. Since its beginning, it evolved into an event that marked the beginning of summer tourism.

For Knott, the core support comes from the immediate area.

"Locals have been our biggest supporters of this festival for the past 16 years and we're continuing to support locals," he said.

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

Sheralyn Rumbolt grew up in Norris Point and is now giving back to her hometown through public office. In the fall, she was elected to own council and currently sits as mayor.

Over the years, she's seen her town evolve and move away from its traditional outport economy.

"Once upon a time it was fishing [and] that type of thing, but now we are sustained through our tourism," she said. "We're a part of this gorgeous national park and it's what we need to survive as a town."

Rumbolt is expecting bright things for the tourism industry this summer, as the pandemic recedes. While there will be hiccups with such things as getting rental vehicles and the price of gas, she's hoping Come Home Year will see an influx of visitors.

"We really hope to see a lot of people coming back home," she said. "We also hope that this will be a chance for tourists who had planned to come over the past two years and haven't been able to, to finally get to see Gros Morne and all of its beauty."

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

The role Trails Tales Tunes plays in this industry isn't to be underestimate, she said.

"The festival absolutely starts [the tourism season] early. The boat tours start out earlier, the restaurants open up their doors earlier, we see all the tourist accommodations open up earlier, so it will really help to kick-start our summer season."

The festival, which began Friday with the official kickoff and three concerts, continues until May 29. Centrally located in the park, Norris Point is also less than a 90-minute drive from Corner Brook. This proximity to a larger population has proven beneficial, said Knott.

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

"People are just ready," he said. "They're ready for a bit of excitement and to kind of get back to normalcy. We know it's still going to be a bit of a different year, I mean COVID isn't gone away so we're being a little bit cautious."

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