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Ottawa Bluesfest

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The Most Exciting Event in Ottawa All Year - Bluesfest!

Published by Mina Trandafilovski — 5 years ago

Ottawa is a small city. Some locals even refer to the City of Ottawa as a "town. " It is a quiet, 9:00AM - 5:00PM city. It does not get very loud here. Except in mid-July. Then the city gets loud and crazy. This is because Ottawa's world-known festival Bluesfest is happening. The festival first kicked off in 1994, and it became Canada's fastest growing outdoor music festival.

Now, do not be fooled by the festival's name. Just because "blues" is in the name of the festival, it does not mean that the whole festival stays true to its blues roots. This is how the festival began. Now, however, Bluesfest's headliners are Hollywood celebrities. Be patient! I'll explain later!

The festival takes place very close to downtown Ottawa. The festival venue is known as "LeBreton Flats. " It is basically the surrounding empty area around Ottawa's famous War Museum. Virtually every city bus goes there, so it is very, very easy to access.

The festival grounds open at 12:00 PM, however, most, if not all of the headliners perform much later on in the evening.

The festival grounds are not that large at all, which makes it much easier to get around, and much easier to find your friends if you do happen to get separated.


There are around four to fives stages at Ottawa Bluesfest, so there are always a minimum of two musicians performing at any given time. Perfect for discovering new music.

Believe it or not, Ottawa Bluesfest is not a very expensive outdoor music festival to attend. In fact, it is probably one of the most affordable in Canada. There are special prices for young people. The Youth Pass costs only around $100CAD, which gives you unlimited access to the ten-day music festival. Compare that to $300CAD for the three-day Osheaga festival pass. There are other deals - such as the Pick 3 Pass, that lets you attend any three days that you want - so you can see the three artists you want the most!

Please keep in mind that the passes I mentioned above are not available for very long periods of time - there is a deadline. Not to fret! You can also purchase individual passes from anywhere from $50CAD - $100CAD, depending on the artist that is performing on that given day. The more popular the artist, the more expensive the pass.

But wait! There is a way to get into shows for free... And no, I am not joking. I am completely serious! You can see shows for free if you are a volunteer at the festival! If you are free from the middle until the end of July, and you are looking for something to do, you should definitely become a volunteer!

It is a bit tricky to sign up for the volunteering process if you are not from Ottawa, or you have never volunteered before. Below, I will give you tips and tricks about volunteering.

- Applications for volunteering open online on the Ottawa Bluesfest website in the middle to the end of April, or sometimes, the beginning of May. So keep checking frequently.

- When the website does open up, select a volunteering position, and choose your shifts as fast as you possibly can. The volunteering website can fill up in as quickly as ten minutes. Be quick!

- You must show up for a minimum of two shifts before you can get into free shows. So make sure you do two shifts on the first day, or during the first two days of the festival, as most of the headliners perform later on in the festival.

Now you are probably wondering - what are some other benefits to being a volunteer? Well, I can tell you that there are many! Here are just a few:

- You have something really cool to put on your resume, that will make you stand out back home, if you are not from Canada.

- If you must complete a certain number of volunteering hours in order to finish high school, your degree, your exchange, or something else, your hours spent volunteering at Bluesfest Ottawa can most certainly go towards this!

- You get a very unique and stylish Ottawa Bluesfest volunteer t-shirt. As funny or as strange as it may seem, there are people in Ottawa that collect the volunteering shirts. I have seen some people that have volunteering t-shirts from when the festival started in 1994! This t-shirt can be a great souvenir to remember your exchange, or trip to Ottawa, and your amazing time at Ottawa Bluesfest!

- You get fed! Yes, that is right! You get a meal for each shift that you volunteer! Ottawa Bluesfest cares about their hardworking volunteers! The meals they provide you are quite nice meals, and the portion sizes are very generous. A typical volunteer meal can include a salad, French fries, a hamburger or a hot dog, a drink, some fruit, and a dessert.

- You can make amazing friends when you volunteer at Ottawa Bluesfest. Thousands of people, young and old alike volunteer at Ottawa Bluesfest each year, so you are bound to meet someone and be friends with them!

Now, I will get to the interesting part, and the part you all want to know. Who can I expect to see at Ottawa Bluesfest? Each year is a surprise, and you can never guess who they will bring! But this is the fun of it, no?

In 2013, I saw The Black Keys. This was my first time ever, ever going to Ottawa Bleusfest, so this is the only show I got to see. Nonetheless, it was absolutely amazing!

2014 was an amazing year for Ottawa Bluesfest. This is also the first time that I was a volunteer at Ottawa Bluesfest, so every artist that I saw this year, I saw for free. I watched Lady Starlight, Lady Gaga, Skrillex, The Killers, Blondie and Snoop Dogg.


The 2015 lineup was not of much interest to me, but I still saw RL Grime, JackU, Iggy Azalea, Chance the Rapper, and the infamous millionaire... Kanye West!


Now, if at least one of the artists that I mentioned above does not make you excited, then I do not know what to tell you!

Here are some tips if you do plan on attending Ottawa Bluesfest:

- Do not buy food or drinks on the Ottawa Bluesfest festival grounds. Food and drinks here are extremely overpriced, and they are looking to make money off of you and your thirsty and hungry friend group. Bring you own water and bring your own snacks!

- Do not try to smuggle drugs or alcohol onto the Ottawa Bluesfest grounds. There are police officers there, and you do risk getting arrested. You will also get caught, as you must go through security to get into the festival. They check you pockets, body, and bags, so do not even try. If you must drink, drink before.

- Do not accepted any drugs, alcohol, or drinks from strangers. At outdoor music festivals, there are a lot of bad, and dangerous substances. You do not know what the person put in the substance that they are trying to give you. Kindly decline the offer, and report the situation to security if you feel that the situation could escalate into something more dangerous.

- Be prepared to get pushed. A lot. I am not exaggerating when I say that the whole city of Ottawa attends Ottawa Bluesfest. Especially if a big name, like Kanye West, is performing. Not everyone has nice manners like you and I, so be prepared to get pushed and shoved a lot. The closer that you are to the front, the more you can expect to get pushed.

- Be prepared to be surrounded by a lot of intoxicated people. That being said, many people will not be on their best behaviour. The best thing you can do is either ignore the person that is annoying you, or call security if the situation is getting out of hand. Do not try to instigate fights or solve fights by yourself.

- Do not wear your favourite shoes. Especially if they are white. They will never be white again after this festival. Ottawa Bluesfest grounds are basically just dirty. So your shoes will get very dirty. Try to wear darker shoes so that they do not get completely destroyed.

- Stay hydrated. Ottawa can get very, very hot in humid in the summer. Pair this with being outdoors in the sun all day while moving and dancing, and you are definitely at risk for getting dehydrated. Make sure that you bring plenty of water with you. If you do forget your water, or if you run out of water, you can always go drink something at the War Museum.

- If you must use the washroom, or if you just need to cool off, the War Museum is good place to go. It is air-conditioned, and you can buy food and drinks here, if you so need.

Remember, stay safe, have fun, and rock out!

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