They always say the first five years are the hardest part of starting any sort of business – let it be a (cough, magazine), store, restaurant or even a music festival. Now past that crucial half way mark, Livestock Niagara continues to grow and shine, proving that with a little bit of hard work, persistence and dedication, those five years will flow by.
“I started the festival because there is a lot of incredible talent in this city and I’ve been working alongside a lot of these people since my adolescence – being a musician in Niagara, being a promoter and doing this and that, “said Livestock Niagara founder Rafik Guirguis.
“I realized that there isn’t an avenue for a lot of these people to perform or showcase what they have in Niagara falls, its my hometown so I put together what I thought would be a decent platform to showcase what they have.”
In 2015, Livestock started out as a ‘glorified parking lot concert’. The event took place on two stages in the parking lot of Taps on Queen (which it still calls home), and featured 18 bands throughout the day. In 2016, Guirguis doubled up and featured 44 bands on four stages, incorporating the stage within Taps and the infamous orange Band on a Couch.
“Basically, we took what worked the first year and doubled it for 2016. Now, for this year, we’ve taken what worked last year and doubled up again. We still have the four stages at Taps, and have incorporated the Moose and Pepper as well,” said Guirguis.
“We decided to have vendors out on Valley Way as you enter the festival. We have a craft beer garden; we have visual artists displaying their work on the street. The music side of things has been flowing so well the past two years, but we haven’t really payed much attention to the art side so much – it is the Livestock Niagara Music and Arts Festival. So, we’re working on building those vibes this year.”
With two years of running the festival under his belt, Guirguis explained that it hasn’t come easy. “You always hit these roadblocks, and at times it can be like being dragged through molasses; just always trying to set things in motion.”
During the first year, Guirguis was just a man with a dream. People admired his dedication to the festival, but he was relatively unknown at the time. Sponsorship and investments were hard to come by, and while roughly 300 people came out for the inaugural event, mass audiences weren’t as receptive to the fact that there was a FREE local music festival happening in Niagara Falls.
The second year, however, was much more receptive. Over 1,000 people found their way to the festival. This year, the festival hopes to ‘double up’ again and hopefully transform itself into a sustainable festival that is here to stay.
“I honestly believe that when you are putting forward a good product that people want, things are going to get set in place. As long as I can breathe and as long as I can move, I am going to grind for this festival, day and night,” said Guirguis.
“I think that’s the difference between wanting it to succeed and just doing it.”