Ottawa Grassroots Festival: The Sweetness of Community

Strawberry Blonde Bakery and Ottawa Grassroots Festival (OGF) are partnering to support live music and festivals, one creative cookie at a time.  The new community initiative grew out of the long-time connection of Jacqui Okum, Founder and CEO of Strawberry Blonde Bakery with the festival and long-time customer Grace Smith, President of the festival’s Board of Directors.

For several years, OGF volunteers were delighted to nibble on the sweet treats generously donated by the Strawberry Blonde Bakery. Gift certificates offered by the bakery are a popular item on the block for the festival’s annual silent auction. And now, the generosity has taken off to a new level, with a creative flare.  The cookie artists have come up with a line of “festival” themed cookies for music lovers to enjoy in the shape of piano keys, musical notes and one decorated with the message “Support Live Music” complete with a beautiful rainbow to signify the importance of diversity and inclusion.

Not only will the cookies help to promote live music and festivals, but 50% of cookie sales will be donated to the Ottawa Grassroots festival. The funds raised will be used to help the local artistic community, and at the same time, to honour festival founder, Bob Nesbitt, after his recent passing. Bob was a well-loved and well-respected community builder and supporter of music in the National Capital Region.  The OGF Board of Directors has been considering how to best honour him. Jacqui and her team, many of whom have ties to music and theatre communities, wanted to help raise money to both honour Bob Nesbitt and help local artists. “We are so grateful and humbled by Jacqui’s very generous offer to donate 50% of the sales from the ‘live music’ themed sugar cookies towards this initiative”, said Grace.

Jacqui shared how lucky they are to have great support from the community and she wanted to pay it forward through this initiative. “ I think if we’ve learned anything from Covid-19, it’s how connected we are and how much we all rely on each other. There’s been a lot of awareness around the devastating effects this pandemic has had on small business, and rightfully so, but it’s been equally devastating to the live music world. So many people’s lives in this industry are affected. Not just musicians, but also those who do sound checks, lighting, setting up the stage, organizing the events, etc. And without live music, thousands of concert goers are missing that important connection that often happens between them and the music. Music enriches our lives in so many ways”, explained Jacqui.

How did this sweet partnership happen?

Grace Smith, festival President, has been a loyal customer of Strawberry Blonde Bakery since it opened its first shop. Recently she approached Jacqui with a fun idea, which she thought would both help their endeavours, while also supporting the arts community. The bakery offers a variety of cookies. “I’ve tried almost everything on the menu. I’m addicted to their delicious creations and to the superb customer service they offer”, said Grace. Their creative cookie artists are amazing.  With the virtual edition of Ottawa Grassroots set to take place April 23-25 2021, Grace thought it would be great to have a yummy “festival” themed cookie. She suggested it not be an ‘OGF’ specific cookie but instead one which would bring attention to ‘Live Music and Festivals’, industries devastated by the pandemic. Jacqui loved the idea. She knew her crew would be excited to create something really special!

And, they did not disappoint.  “We are so delighted to share these treats with everyone, which are now available for purchase at Strawberry Blonde Bakeries online store.  They can be safely ordered for pick-up, delivered to your door if you live in Ottawa or shipped across Canada. Enjoy our treats, as you take in the Ottawa Grassroots Festival”, said Jacqui Okum.

OGF will work with Jacqui’s team and advisers from the festival community to determine how these funds can be shared. “Our goal is to support those in the community who best embody the spirit of Bob Nesbitt”, said Grace Smith. Some preliminary ideas include an award for youth or an emerging singer-songwriter. Other criteria might include involvement in the community or building community connections through music, which was always very important to Bob.

About Strawberry Blonde Bakery
In the early years of the festival, this Ottawa local business opened its doors in the Westboro community offering vegan, kosher, gluten-free and nut-free baked goods at a time when there were few options for anyone living with food allergies and requiring zero cross- contamination.

Our local businesses are rock stars. Working together on this initiative is a perfect example of the incredible partnerships which can emerge when supporting each other, especially during these very challenging times. Cultivating community is woven through the fabric of this festival. Please order your cookies online and delivery is an option to keep everyone safe. They will only be available for a limited time. So, order them soon!

About the Ottawa Grassroots Festival (OGF)
The Ottawa Grassroots Festival is a non-profit, community-based, volunteer-run organization dedicated to cultivating community at the local level through a vibrant annual festival of concerts and participatory workshops. The OGF is in its 10th year and was founded by Bob Nesbitt, and dozens of very talented volunteers. The 2021 edition of the OGF occurs over the weekend of Apr 23-25th entirely online!

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