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HELSTON: What's happening to summer music fests?

Charlotte Helston is the Vernon reporter for InfoNews.
September 19, 2014 - 7:46 AM

It starts around July—posts about dust-caked feet, late nights and dazzling concerts hurl into my Facebook news feed and I know it’s festival season again.

Music festivals have become synonymous with summertime in B.C. They’re a quintessential activity for music lovers of all ages, and attending is something of a ritual for a lot of people. I know people who buy a new Roots and Blues Festival T-shirt to add to their collection every summer and haven’t missed the event in over two decades.

But despite this loyal following, festivals are suffering. Roots and Blues recently announced its dire situation, but it isn’t the first to experience financial hardship. The Komasket Music Festival in Vernon, the Nakusp Music Fest and the Merritt Mountain Music Fests have all disappeared over the last few years.

I shared a link to the Roots and Blues story on Facebook with the comment ‘Who saw this coming?’ A friend of mine who organizes an annual event in Armstrong replied: ‘Anyone who’s ever tried to run a music festival.’

It’s not all Hawaiian shaved ice and hula hoops; orchestrating a music fest is tough stuff. As we blissfully stroll the grounds, munching on our favourite festival food and discovering great new artists, we may not realize what goes on behind the scenes. Booking acts, hiring security companies, finding volunteers, getting sponsors and making sure there’s enough cash leftover to do it all again next year isn’t a walk through the vendors tent.

One of the Roots and Blues organizers said costs continue to rise for equipment, venues, utilities and bands, however festivals are reluctant to raise prices for fear of scaring off customers. They already face variables with weather, gas prices and accommodation costs that could make festival-goers cancel their plans. 

A boost in government funding for the arts could help get festivals back on their feet and perhaps there’s an opportunity for local municipalities to help out financially too. There’s no doubt music festivals are a boon for the local economy, bringing out of towners to campgrounds, restaurants, hotels, boutiques and tourist attractions.

The rest of us have a part to play as well. If we don’t want to lose festivals like Roots and Blues—which help define the culture and flavour of a community—we need to show them our love. It’s an expense, but if you think it’s a worthy one, open your wallets. Because if we don’t, there might not be a Roots and Blues to go to next summer.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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