July 14, 1984 – Hillside is Born!

Located at the Riverside Park Band shell. Admission is free with an optional donation fee. The program is distributed on a single, photocopied sheet that promises: “11 hour music celebration for all ages – noon – 11pm.”

July 13, 1985 – Head to Head with Live Aid

Hillside takes place the same day as Live Aid. Admission fee is $5.00 in advance, $6.00 at the gate, $4.00 unwaged. The seven-act line up includes Common Ground, Tamarack, Magician Tom Kubinek, The Reverbs, James Gordon, and Aleod. All artists perform free of charge. Food is provided by the Guelph Food Co-op.

July 19, 1986 – The Hillside “Brand”

Billed as “small town integrity” with “homegrown musical talent, craft display, and wholesome foods.” Workshops introduced, including kayaking, angling, and kite flying. Hillside is incorporated as a non-profit with a board of directors and joins the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals.

July 17-19, 1987 – Island Bound

Hillside moves to Guelph Lake Island and expands to a three-day event with multiple stages. The Hillside bus is introduced, picking festival patrons up downtown in front of the Treanon Restaurant. Camping and the beer tent are introduced.

July 15-17, 1988 – Field, Brick, Grove

The main stage is named the Field Stage. Stages 1 and 2 become the Brickhouse and Grove stages. The downtown bus stop is moved to the Stone Store. Blue boxes, supplied by the city, are introduced for recycling cans, glass, and newsprint.

July 21-23, 1989 – Take it to the Top

Guelph is cited as one of the “top ten places to live in Canada” and Hillside is one of the reasons. Hillside receives its first Ontario Arts Council and City of Guelph grants. Guelph Lake Conservation area improves water and electrical services to the island. Price of a Hillside membership is $15.

July 20-22, 1990 – Sold Out!

Hillside has its first sold-out Saturday night. The Hillside community quilt is made during the festival and then raffled off on-site. The first festival map is printed.

July 19-21, 1991 – Speaking Out

Spoken word performances are introduced. Hat bands are introduced. Musicians place their names in a hat, drawing them to see who plays together. Introduction of the Hillside “free for all.” After the last performance on Sunday, all patrons are invited to share thoughts and ideas about the festival.

July 1-19, 1992 – A New Identity

The current Hillside logo is introduced. A solar stage is provided by Energy Action Council. The Mind, Body, and Spirit tent opens.

July 23-25, 1993 – Tofu Love Punx

The first environmental expo is introduced. The youth committee, open to 16-20-year-olds is formed. They call themselves the “Tofu Love Punx.” A volunteer “thank-you” party is held at the Brick Brewery in Waterloo.

July 22-24, 1994 – Changes

First year that ticket prices include admission to the Guelph Lake Conservation Area. Over 400 volunteers sign up. The program includes food vendor menus. Youth bands, chosen by volunteers, perform on the main stage.

July 21-23, 1995 – Survey Says…

Speed River Cycle offers free lockup and minor repairs. Ticket prices rise to $35 for Early Birds and $45 Advance. The Hillside budget reaches $250,000. The first Hillside Survey is distributed.

July 19-21, 1996 – Top 25

Acoustic Guitar Magazine ranks Hillside as one of the top 25 festivals in North America (with one of the smallest budgets). The city implements the Wet/Dry waste system.

July 25-27, 1997 – The Fashion Fuzz

Spoken Word and Hand Drumming profiles are included in the program. Fashion policeman, O.J. Anderson, patrols Hillside distributing hilarious citations.

July 24-26, 1998 – Going Online

The Hillside website is launched. There are more than 500 volunteers and 40 acts. The famous “mud kids” photo is on the back cover of the program.

July 23-25, 1999 – Circle of Love

The Aboriginal Circle is launched. Evergreen Seniors Center and Guelph-Wellington Seniors Association celebrate “International Year of the Older Person.” A major thunderstorm shuts down the Main Stage. All acts are temporarily relocated to the tents.

July 21-23, 2000 – Taking Hillside Home

The first Hillside CD is released, featuring live tracks from the 1999 festival. The Hillside t-shirt is made from 100% organic cotton. There are more than 800 volunteers, a Hillside record.

July 20-22, 2001 – The Merch Tent

Performer’s merchandise is housed in a separate tent due to unprecedented sales the previous year.

July 19-21, 2002 – Onto a New Stage

The permanent Hillside Community Stage is completed. Weekend passes sell out for the first time. More than 1,000 volunteers work the festival.

July 25, 2003 – Hillside Turns 20

Hillside turns 20. Online ticket sales are introduced. After 12 years, The Barenaked Ladies return to Hillside and perform a Thursday night fundraiser to help pay for the new stage.

July 23-25, 2004 – Good Growth

Hillside does its first full financial audit, opening the door to larger grants from government sources. Investments are made in island infrastructure to support the growing festival.

July 22-25, 2005 – Green Roof

For the first time, all tickets are sold out before the festival opens. The living roof on the permanent stage is planted and irrigation begins. The traditional two-gate system is changed and the main gate is re-located to the parking area.

July 21-23, 2006 – Electrifying

Weekend passes sell out in under a week. The island’s electricity infrastructure is improved. Food vendors expand around the site, beyond food pavilion.

July 27-29, 2007 – Going Inside

Hillside’s free public water program is introduced. Sign language interpreters are available for some of the performances. Planning for the first annual Hillside Inside begins. The event is to be held at the Sleeman Centre in February 2008. 

July 25-27, 2008 – 25th Anniversary

Hillside celebrates its 25th anniversary. The dishwashing team introduces a new reusable product, a Spork – half spoon and half fork.  Tibetan Monks perform at the summer festival.

July 24-26, 2009 – Volunteers

New initiatives created in Volunteer Management such as Group Orientation for New Volunteers, Eco Volunteer Waste Crew, and Volunteer Support Crew.

July 23-25, 2010 – Even More Electrifying

Lightning rods are installed on the Main Stage and Food Pavillion roofs.  Hillside is sponsored by Natvik Design who generously donated hundreds of native and locally-adapted plants to ticket-buyers on the May on-sale day.  For this, they are awarded the ‘Most Innovative Partnership’ award from Festival & Events Ontario.

July 22-24, 2011 – Trash-Turnaround

Hillside partners with Green Legacy to give white pine seedlings to all loyal ticket buyers who came to the office on the first day of sales. Hillside offers a fully biodegradable beer mug made from a corn-based resin. Trash-Turnaround Stations are created to help better sort through different types of waste.  February 2011:  Hillside Inside expands over 2 days, leaving the Sleeman Centre arena and using multiple downtown venues that are accessible.

July 27-29, 2012 – Advocacy, Award, and Accessibility

Organized bike rides are led to and from the festival each day by Guelph’s cycling advocacy group, GOTBike. Lloyd Grinham, our Site Director and longstanding volunteer, is awarded the Festivals and Events Ontario Hall of Fame award for “outstanding contribution to a festival.” Hillside receives a federal grant to begin working on a new accessible website so that it will be easier for people with special needs to participate in our online culture.

July 26-28, 2013 – Our 30th Birthday

The summer program, designed by Gareth Lind of LindDesign, includes an eight-page colour pull-out celebrating our 30 years in words and pictures.  The Site Decor crew and the 30th-anniversary committee resuscitate the Star Chamber, a multi-media, interactive display chamber for everyone to commemorate their Hillside experiences.  Justin Peterson, the coordinator of Dishwashing, receives the Volunteer of the Year Award from Festivals & Events Ontario.  First year for the Youth Showcase, which starts after the Aboriginal Opening.  Hillside introduces a stainless-steel mug with a thermal sleeve.  Jamie Kapitain’s “guitar guy” (2013 artwork) is printed on the side of the mug.  Our accessible website is officially launched in April 2013.   Daily newsletter introduced at the summer festival, written by Tabassum Siddiqui and called The Hillside Hum.   We move into our new office at 341 Woolwich Street in November 2013 and begin renovating it to make it accessible.

July 25-27, 2014 – Stormy Weather 

We won several surprise awards this year:  an Access Recognition Award from the City of Guelph’s Barrier-Free Committee, a Grand River Honour Roll Award “for actions to protect and enhance the natural environment and heritage of the Grand River watershed,” and a Festival of Distinction Award from Festivals & Events Ontario.  The Site crew created “The Dorito” (a 17-foot triangle of material on poles) to provide shade in the Green Space.  Using the money raised by the Green Team, Nick Dalton and a crew of volunteers design and build Hillside’s first solar water heater to heat Dishwashing’s water on site.  Summer festival programming is suspended and then the festival closes early on Sunday because of dangerous storms.  

July 24-26, 2015 – Resto-Bar Shows

This year, we also added small, intimate shows in restaurants/bars in Hillside Inside 2015. Our 2011 decision to take Hillside Inside out of the arena and into smaller, more intimate venues seems to be resonating.

July 22-24, 2016 – More Awards!

Canadian Music Week nominated us for Best Small Festival in Canada; Best Children’s Programming in Canada; and Best Green Operations—all for the Live Music Industry awards. And we won Green Operations Festival of the Year, an award presented by Stageline. We were also awarded a Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO) award for Festival of Distinction and Best Greening of a Festival this year.

July 14-16, 2017 – Protest Songwriting Course

This past year saw the inaugural class of our Protest Songwriting Course, led by accomplished songwriter Doris Folkens, and our executive director, Marie Zimmerman. 2017 is also the year we launch an exciting new travel option for Toronto-based Hillsiders. The shuttle bus brings Hillsiders to-and-fro Guelph Lake Island.

July 13-15, 2018 – Our 35th Birthday

Eight years ago, we introduced Girls & Guitars, which now has three streams. And in the last year, we continued our work by offering two educational opportunities. The first was a Live Sound Workshop for women in cooperation with Canadian Women in Music and the Ontario Arts Council. The second was a documentary screening of Play Your Gender, a film about women in music.

July 14-16, 2019 – Green, Green, Green

This year, we won two awards for our greening initiatives, one international and one provincial. The Clearwater Award is presented “to a festival that prioritizes environmental stewardship and demonstrates public leadership in sustainable event production.” The Best Greening Award was presented by Festivals and Events Ontario for ensuring “earth-friendly practices are carried out throughout the planning, implementation, and evaluation” of our festival. We also received the Best Small Festival Award from Canadian Music Week and were a finalist for the Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. Additionally, this year Hillside was able to source wristbands made from bamboo. We also officially became carbon neutral this year.

July 24-26, 2020 – Hillside Homeside

For the first time, our summer festival was held entirely online. We made the decision to pivot to a virtual event during the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 130 workshop and performance videos hosted right here on our website. Through special projects like 37 Songs for a New World and the Now & Then series, as well as performances recorded from popular Guelph locations, we tried to bring Hillside to people’s homes during a difficult year. In 2020, we won Folk Music Ontario’s Setting the Stage Award, in recognition of outstanding contributions to the live music industry.

July 23-25, 2021 – Homeside Once Again

Learning from our experience with virtual events in the previous year and at Hillside Inside 2021, we created a hybrid music festival, with recorded performances and workshops, some livestreamed performances, and a series of surprise pop-up shows held in various locations in Guelph.

July 22-24, 2022 – Many Happy Returns

We make our grand return to the island as the world adapts to the pandemic. Hillside is cashless for the very first time and we take on a project to improve the Internet on the island. The first Hillside mobile app is launched to replace the printed program.

July 28-30, 2023 – 40 Years of Hillside

Our 40th birthday rolls around, and we celebrate with peace on our mind and music in our hearts. A rainy Saturday morning isn’t enough to slow us down and the weekend ends with a sing-along performance of Hillside’s newly written anthem, “One More Song”, on the Main Stage.

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