Sarnia airport drive-in concerts 'a great success'

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Organizers of Rocking the Runway at Sarnia’s Chris Hadfield Airport say the Friday and Saturday evening drive-in concerts were a success.

Saturday’s concert, headlined by Big Wreck, sold out, with 200 cars parked in front of the outdoor stage. Friday’s show, headlined by The Reklaws, saw 168 of the 200 available tickets sold, said Mark Perrin, a Bluewater Borderfest organizer.

“Overall, it was a great success,” he said. “Basically, there were no problems and the airport’s happy with everything, saying it would be great to do it again some time.”

Borderfest was able to use provincial funding it received for a summer outdoor music festival that was postponed because of the pandemic, as well as support from local sponsors, to stage the two-day physically distanced shows at the airport.

Scott Manery and the Barnburners open Friday's Rocking the Runway drive-in concert in Sarnia.
Scott Manery and the Barnburners open Friday’s Rocking the Runway drive-in concert in Sarnia. Photo by Paul Morden /The Observer

“We’re getting lots of comments on social media” thanking the organizers for putting on the show, Perrin said.


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Hours of planning went into holding the shows while meeting public-health rules during the pandemic. The pavement inside the fence at the airport was marked with chalk lines so vehicles were physically distanced and spectators were required to remain in their vehicles during the show.

“We’re proud of the people who came, listened and followed” the rules, Perrin said.

“Security said it was one of the easiest shows they’ve ever worked.”

Friday’s concert with Canadian country duo The Reklaws went ahead as scheduled after a tornado watch issued by Environment Canada was lifted before the opening act, Scott Manery and the Barnburners, began performing.

Scott Manery performs with The Barnburners Friday at Rocking the Runway in Sarnia. Photo by Paul Morden /The Observer

“It’s our last (in-person) show of 2020, so we’re going to try and go out with a bang if we can,” Stuart Walker of The Reklaws said before going on stage.

“We’re super stoked,” Jenna Walker said. “It’s going to be super awesome.”

The siblings grew up in a rural community near Waterloo and have had a run of success since signing a major label deal in 2017. The Reklaws – Walker spelled backward – are Canadian Country Music Award winners and have had a string of country radio hits, including the number one song, Feels Like That, co-written by Sarnia’s Donovan Woods.

“We’re thankful every day,” Jenna said. “It has been a crazy ride, and we feel like we’re just getting started. We know how lucky we are, especially during these times.”

She said they’ve performed at four or five drive-in concerts since the pandemic began.


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“Which have been different, at first, but I think we’re used to it,” she said.

Honking horns took the place of applause and dancing crowds at Friday’s show.

The duo’s new album, Sophomore Slump, has just been released, which has been its own challenge because of pandemic restrictions.

“We were lucky we could kind of do it all ourselves and recorded the entire album in my living room in Toronto,” Stuart said. “Usually, we’d go to Nashville and a producer would do all the work while we sit in the room and watch him.”

This time, they worked with a producer over Zoom.

“We had to be hands on and push each other to make sure our vocals and all deliveries were the same, if not better, than what Nashville can capture,” Stuart said.

The duo has an upcoming virtual tour planned to promote the album.

“It’s a strange time to put out music because you can’t showcase it in the same way but, at the same time, people are streaming more than ever because they have nothing else to do,” Stuart said.

Sophomore Slump is the followup to the duo’s 2019 album, Freshman Year, and the new collection includes the song, You Problem, co-written by Woods.

“He’s just so talented,” Stuart said.