“Put your hand up when there are opportunities.”
Brooke Dunford is the daughter of Eva Dunford and Stan Dunford, owners of Republic Live and Burls Creek in Oro-Medonte, Ontario, Canada. Their flagship event, Boots and Hearts, stands as the largest outdoor camping festival in Canada, serving as a pinnacle of the country’s music culture outdoors.
In 2016, Brooke embraced her parents’ vision for Boots and Hearts and joined the team in a Marketing and PR role. Her dedication and passion led her to an expanded role in 2019 as a Talent Buyer. Brooke’s affection for her family’s legacy and her role within the company shine through when she talks about her journey. She saw the grandeur of Boots and Hearts’ vision and was driven to elevate it further.
Reflecting on her journey, Brooke shared, “I used to be a fan in the audience during many summers, watching the stage, the talent, camping, and having the time of my life. I knew I wanted to be part of something so incredible, to contribute to ‘The Labor of Love’ like my parents did.”
A monumental moment for Brooke’s family and the festival was the inclusion of Shania Twain in the 2020 Boots and Hearts lineup. Shania’s first Canadian festival appearance added a significant chapter to the festival’s legacy, attracting thousands to Oro-Medonte to celebrate the Canadian superstar.
During my conversation with Brooke, I was struck by her deep connection with fans, volunteers, sponsors, and musicians. The Dunford family’s Boots and Hearts platform thrives because of its strong community involvement. Brooke emphasized, “Many of our team members were volunteers before becoming contractors or employees. Our shared love drives us.”
As we delved into Boots and Hearts 2023, Brooke expressed excitement about the successful inclusion of Nickelback, expanding the festival’s musical landscape into rock starting with Hardy. This calculated move broadened the festival’s appeal, evident in the sold-out Friday event that drew 45,000 attendees.
Another highlight of Boots and Hearts 2023 was Tim McGraw’s performance, fulfilling fans’ fervent requests. The sight of the filled field, illuminated by phone flashlights, with the entire audience singing along, moved Brooke deeply. She recounted, “I gazed at the crowd, holding back tears, overwhelmed by emotion and love for our fans and their experience.”
When asked about the timeline for planning Boots and Hearts 2024, Brooke revealed, “We’re already immersed in planning for the next event. The process takes nearly a whole year. In the fall, we engage with our fans and subscribers, revealing upcoming dates, lineups, and ticket details.” Brooke encourages everyone interested to subscribe to bootsandhearts.com for exclusive previews and information.
Wrapping up our discussion, I inquired about advice Brooke could offer to those aspiring to engage in music festivals, production, promotion, or performance. Brooke turned 30 this year and I felt it was important for her to share some wisdom. Her response encapsulated her journey: “Chase your dreams passionately, work relentlessly—then even more so. Be patient with yourself and your aspirations. Immerse yourself in learning. Most importantly, seize opportunities when they arise.” In her exact words “Put your hand up when there are opportunities”
Pictures: Pic 1 – Brooke Dunford
Picture 2 – left to right: Eva Dunford, Tim McGraw, Brooke Dunford, Stan Dunford
Picture 3- Left to right: Orillia’s very own local artist Parker Graye and Brooke Dunford
(This was Parker Graye’s first time at Boots and Hearts and first hometown show)
Interviewed by Karen Macintosh