Larry Kurtz






13 years ago, bluesman and craftsman Larry Kurtz put on a free, easy-to-see-it-all, musically eclectic party in Headwaters. Today, he and his staff (and 150 volunteers) present artists from around the world and next door, across the spectrum of jazz and blues styles.


35,000 people in downtown Orangeville?

Not all at once! Over four days, 25 venues get involved. We don’t want to get bigger: we want to stay relevant, constantly improve. Bigger isn’t always better.


I read that many people say it’s their favourite festival, why?

The intimacy. It’s right in the middle of downtown, you’re walking distance to everything, and you’re right up close to the shows. As much as I’d like to go the Air Canada Centre for a show, it’s a totally different experience here, where you could walk right up and talk to the person you just saw playing.


Lots of rising stars, too.

We try to find people who are just about to break big, but are still affordable! We have a pretty good record of picking people who’ve just won the Juno, for example.


How’d it start?

My wife and I used to go to Toronto for the shows, and I thought, why don’t I bring some of those people up here. I’d bring in bands, then I tried a concert at the opera house and that went well… so the next year we went for a festival. 2000 people. With just my own money. I had a beer garden the first year, that’s what saved me.


But you’re not just a musician.

I started as a woodworker. We work on old homes. When people are restoring an old home, like mine which was built in 1875, and they want to match the trim from 100 years ago, we make that.

In fact, there was a mill shop in Orangeville that made all this trim, and it’s kind of interesting that there’s somebody 100 years later, down the street, continuing what they were doing.