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Early summer festivals attract record audiences

The event industry expects sold-out festivals to continue throughout the summer.

Celebrating Midsummer at the sold-out Himos festival, south of Jyväskylä. Image: Tommi Anttonen / Lehtikuva

After two summers of Covid restrictions, record numbers of attendees have been tallied at festivals in Finland this June.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education and Culture announced its initiative to promote the events industry, removing virtually all Covid restrictions.

In early summer festivals, there has been a strong resurgence of crowds. Sideways festival in Helsinki saw 26,000 people attend over a span of three days, while Kesärauha in Turku had over 19,000 attendees over the span of a weekend in early June.

Midsummer festivals have also attracted a substantial number of concert-goers. The Himos Midsummer festival in south-central brought in roughly 30,000 people from Thursday to Saturday for an all-domestic lineup of pop acts. A year ago, the event was only attended by 15,000 people.

The Tahko Midsummer festival in North Savo has also recorded its largest audience ever with 15,000 people. Prior to this year, the highest number of people in attendance at the Tahko event was 14,000 in 2019.

"People are in a good mood. They've been looking forward to celebrating Midsummer together," festival director Allu Jokinen told Yle.

Monday marks the beginning of the Sommelo folk music festival in Kainuu, while Avanti! Summer Sounds festival of contemporary classical music starts on Wednesday in Porvoo. Thursday brings the kickoff of the Provinssi rock and pop festival in Seinäjoki.

Events hit by rising prices, labour shortages

Ticket sales were already hot in the spring, with more tickets purchased than in the previous record year of 2019.

Maria Sahlstedt, Director of Communications and Influencing for Tapahtumateollisuus ry—an organisation that represents the events industry in Finland—said that people are excited to get out and go to events after the Covid restrictions of the past two years. Sahlstedt told Yle that she believes there will continue to be sold-out festivals later in the summer.

"Both at festivals and at events of all kinds, from sports to religious events, you hear that people are getting out and about. People still have a passionate need to meet up and that joy is clearly there," Sahlstedt said.

New issues arise

The events industry is just getting back on its feet after the pandemic, but other worries have taken its place. The war in Ukraine has pushed up prices and Covid has left a labour shortage in its wake.

Adding to this is the fact that festivalgoers are buying tickets later—a trend that started prior to Covid. As a result of weak ticket sales, at least one event, Saimaa Festival, was forced to cancel.

"Just a few days before, a large number of tickets can be snapped up, which is different from a few years ago. Perhaps we are also in a dual situation here, in that some companies have been able to anticipate this and have made provision for it. Events have to have the risk tolerance to be able to wait until the last minute before they begin," Sahlstedt told Yle.

As ticket prices rise and going to festivals becomes a more spontaneous decision for festivalgoers, it is a big question mark whether this will affect people's enthusiasm to go to festivals.

"So far, there is no sign that consumers are pinching pennies. People still have money to spend and a pent-up urge to go to events. Perhaps, in the midst of such uncertainty, there is also a need for the escapism that events can offer," Sahlstedt suggested.