Brett Michaels returns to CannaFest 2019, after rocking Grand Forks at the 2018 event. (Kathleen Saylors/Grand Forks Gazette)

2019 CannaFest spans generations and styles to rock Grand Forks

The festival kicks off Thurs., Aug. 8, in Grand Forks

It was 1977 or ‘78, Chuck Varabioff said, when his neighbours bought a “killer stereo.” His parents followed suit, and so he went and borrowed Cheap Trick’s latest album from a friend.

“I played it and played it and played it,” Varabioff remembered, until he finally returned the album, scratched and dusty after it had spun miles around his turntable. “I was scared to give it back to him.”

Now, at the fifth annual CannaFest in Grand Forks, Varabioff’s 14-year-old self is thrilled to see that band take centre stage at his festival on Aug. 9.

“That’s the one band I want to see more than anybody,” the CannaFest organizer said about this year’s lineup. “I want to see them all, but [Cheap Trick] takes a little bit of an edge.”

Cheap Trick also comes with his father’s endorsement too. The elder Chuck Varabioff, who died several months ago from cancer, was listening to the band’s rendition of the Elvis hit “Don’t be cruel” in his son’s truck.

“I just signed these guys for CannaFest,” the festival organizer told his dad at the time. “What do you think?”

“They’re not Elvis, but they’re pretty good,” his dad replied.

Cheap Trick joins a lineup that includes Poison’s Brett Michaels, former Journey lead singer Steve Augeri, Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil, the Beach Boys and Marianas Trench – a late addition after “Take me home tonight” singer Eddie Money cancelled his summer tour for health reasons.

Where the Beach Boys formed in 1961, Marianas Trench formed fully 40 years later and released their debut album Fix You in 2006. Meaning, this year’s festival spans more genres and more decades of billboard hits than ever before.

Now, Varabioff said, there’s classics for the grandparents, hair bands for parents and the festival’s middle-age demographic and the Vancouver Juno winners offer something relevant for the third generation of CannaFest goers.

Last year of ‘CannaFest’

Varabioff also told the Gazette that the 2019 edition would be the last year for ‘CannaFest’– not that the music festival is shutting down or moving on, but he’s planning a rebrand for next year.

The organizer explained that having a cartoon pot leaf as a logo and the word “Canna” in the name has scared away some potential sponsors (leading to him fronting the cash to run the festival) and may even run afoul of the federal government’s guidelines on advertising. Cannabis companies are not allowed to market themselves using materials that might appeal to children, such as the leaf currently on CannaFest materials.

Despite the changes, Varabioff said, “It’s [still] going to be the same festival with the same people behind it.”

CannaFest 2019 runs from Aug. 8 through 10 in Grand Forks.

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