In-Person Tourism Festival Returns to Gros Morne National Park

The Tablelands dominate Bonne Bay and the approach to Norris Point. (Troy Turner/CBC)

They’re back – and they hope locals and tourists enjoy what they have to offer.

For 17 years, the Trails Tales Tunes festival has been the unofficial kickoff to tourist season in Gros Morne National Park in western Newfoundland.

Even during the pandemic, the Norris Point-based festival has survived, albeit in a different guise.

After a virtual event in 2020, festival organizers managed to deliver a hybrid event last season, with heavily reduced capacity for some elements and online-only for others.

This year it’s back to the stable of live, in-person events that the festival was built on.

“We’re really excited to be back and we’re feeling that anticipation and buildup that’s been missing over the last two years,” said festival co-chair Gregory Knott. “People are just ready to go back to the theaters and to the halls, to listen to good live music, to visit the sites.”

Gregory Knott is co-chair of the Trails Tales Tunes festival which kicked off Friday at Norris Point. (Troy Turner/CBC)

Trails Tales Tunes began as a way to boost tourism in the Bonne Bay area during the spring tourist season. It always features a mix of outdoor events and entertainment from local talent, as well as those from around the province and some international artists. Since its beginnings, it has turned into an event that marked the beginning of summer tourism.

For Knott, grassroots support comes from the immediate region.

“The locals have been our biggest supporters of this festival for the past 16 years and we continue to support the locals,” he said.

The Norris Point Community Hall will host many of the biggest indoor events of the Tales Trails Tunes Festival. (Troy Turner/CBC)

Sheralyn Rumbolt grew up in Norris Point and now gives back to her hometown through public service. In the fall, she was elected to her own council and currently serves as mayor.

Over the years, she has seen her town evolve and move away from its traditional small port economy.

“Once upon a time there was fishing [and] this kind of thing, but now we are supported by our tourism,” she said. “We are part of this beautiful national park and that is what we need to survive as a city.

Rumbolt expects great things for the tourism industry this summer as the pandemic recedes. Although there will be issues with things like getting rental vehicles and gas prices, she hopes Come Home Year will see an influx of visitors.

“We really hope to see a lot of people come home,” she said. “We also hope it will be a chance for tourists who had been planning to come for the past two years and weren’t able to, to finally be able to see Gros Morne and all its beauty.”

Sheralyn Rumbolt, the deputy mayor of Norris Point, says tourism has replaced fishing as the biggest local industry. (Troy Turner/CBC)

The role that Trails Tales Tunes plays in this industry should not be underestimated, she said.

“The festival begins absolutely [the tourism season] early. Boat trips start earlier, restaurants open earlier, we see all the tourist accommodation opening earlier, so it will really help start our summer season.”

The festival, which kicked off on Friday with the official kickoff and three concerts, continues until May 29. Centrally located in the park, Norris Point is also less than 90 minutes’ drive from Corner Brook. This proximity to a larger population has proven beneficial, Knott said.

Bonne Bay Marine Station is the centerpiece of the Norris Point waterfront. (Troy Turner/CBC)

“People are just ready,” he said. “They’re ready for a bit of excitement and to get back to normal. We know it’s going to be a bit different year again, I mean COVID hasn’t gone away so we’re being a bit cautious.”

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