Six years ago, Sudbury, Ontario country artist Larry Berrio decided to take an idea from his wife’s cousin and put on a waterfront concert in Northern Ontario. Despite having to cancel last year's show due to the pandemic, the 2021 "Berrio on the Sandbanks" came back in force on July 25th.
It's a well known fact that boating and country music go together like peas and carrots. And what started as an idea is now an annual tradition for boaters and Northern Ontarians alike. Larry was the Ambassador of Power Sports for Ontario Tourism, and when the idea came across their desk six years ago, they came onboard to help. The first event drew over 80 boats and was a featured part of his music video for “What a Ride."
Since then, the event has grown to over 200 boats and close to 2000 people on Sudbury's Lake Wanapitei. As a free show, Larry depends on sponsors to cover the costs and bring a spectacle to excited boaters. Even more, Larry gives away a custom electric guitar at each Sandbanks show with a donation to the event.
Preparation for each Sandbanks event starts months in advance with coordination between Sudbury Police, EMS, Fire services, MNR and more. The morning usually starts off around 8:00 am by loading a full sound system, drums, guitars and amps on to a barge for a 45-minute ride to the sandy north shores of Lake Wanapitei. Guitar Clinic from Sudbury has been a huge help and the only sound company willing to take on the challenge of their equipment being hauled across the lake. Once there, stage construction begins on the barge which is fully powered by a generator. After about 3 hours of set up, Larry hits the stage at 12:30. The event is only accessible by boat, so two loading areas at Rocky’s Marina and Tony’s Marina make for a busy day at the launch ramp as 2000 guests ride over to join the fun.
In an interview with CTV News, Larry expressed just how different the sandbanks is: "There's something special about the sandbanks, because it's northern Ontario, it's very unique. It's only boat access, you can't get there by car, it's something totally different. It really shows what we have in northern Ontario to offer."
This year's event was organized in less than three weeks to coincide with Stage Three reopening in Ontario. Guests of all ages came out for the chance to take in a unique concert experience in true Northern Ontario fashion.
That being said, Mother Nature always makes the ultimate decision about when the fun gets to happen. This year the planned date was Saturday July 24th, but with a 90% chance of heavy rain and winds it was postponed to Sunday. Unsure of sure how many people would attend in light of the delay, over 200 boats still made the trip and found themselves soaking in sunshine and a toasty 27 degrees!
The Sandbanks is a unique place to host a concert with its sandy shoreline where you can walk out 100 metres and still be in waist deep in water. That kind of ideal landscape isn't all that common in Northern Ontario, but it makes for the ultimate beach party where you can sit on your boat or stand in the water to enjoy the show.
This year, Larry brought along his good friend and fellow Sudbury artist Jopo to open the show. She opened the show in style and had the audience revved up for the headliners. One of the perks of an in-water show is that once Larry hit the stage, there are no real limits and he was able to wander among the crowd as he played.
Berrio on the Sandbanks was the the first concert in Northern Ontario after almost 18 months of being shutdown to public events. For Larry, “it was so amazing to see all the happy faces and to be able to entertain to such a huge crowd again was my highlight this year."
Plans for 2022 have already started as sponsors are making commitments to be part of a one-of-a-kind Sandanks event. Larry has been also approached by other cities looking to host their version of an on-water spectacle in their towns for summer 2022. Be sure to check out Larry Berrio on Facebook, Instagram and his website for details about upcoming shows.