Sam Dunford made his living in the transportation business before he decided to venture into the outdoor festival industry with a new company, Republic Live. The Dunford’s had previously had success with their country music festival Boots & Hearts, which they launched in 2012 and hosted on Burl’s Creek, their sprawling green space just outside of Barrie, Ontario in Oro Medonte.
Republic Live soon looked to expand their venture, and sought a partnership with AC Entertainment, the co-producers of the massively popular Bonnaroo festival in Nashville, to bring a new summer music festival experience to Ontario. Soon it was rumoured that an unnamed “camping & music” festival was coming to Burl’s Creek in the summer of 2015, and the eager anticipation of the reveal of the festival and its artist lineup began.
The festival began dropping mysterious hints, with cryptic posters popping up around Toronto advising people “do not come to the Great Hall on Tuesday February 10th.” The poster hinted at the name WayHome with a serious of symbols. And on February 10th, as fans disobeyed the tongue-in-cheek orders to stay away, WayHome Music & Arts Festival was revealed along with the first glimpse at its artist lineup.
— INDIE88 (@Indie88Toronto) February 11, 2015
The performers for WayHome’s maiden voyage were revealed to include headliners Sam Smith, Kendrick Lamar, alt-J, Modest Mouse, Hozier, Bassnectar, The Decemberists, and St. Vincent. Other artists included Vance Joy, Alvvays, Sloan, Danny Brown, July Talk, Future Islands, Odesza, Run The Jewels, Kaytranada, and countless others.
Thus began the arduous task of waiting for summer to arrive. But, soon enough, the first-ever WayHome event kicked off on July 24, 2015, with the first night headlined by the legendary Neil Young.
The weekend saw over 35,000 fans attend, with many camping out on Burl’s Creek in tents and RVs, and artists performing on four different stages.
The first WayHome was a success, and it ran for another two summers with headliners that included LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Frank Ocean, and Flume.
Regrettably, the Dunfords announced in 2017 that WayHome would be taking an indefinite hiatus to “reflect, re-assess, and re-imagine the event.”
— WayHome Music & Arts (@wayhomefestival) September 5, 2017