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Bad news for Roots and Blues Music Fest

Artist K'naan performed before a large crowd at the Roots and Blues Music Festival in 2010.
September 11, 2014 - 4:28 PM

SALMON ARM - A summer music festival that has become synonymous with the City of Salmon Arm is in financial peril, and next year’s event hangs in the balance.

The popular Roots and Blues Festival has been a staple of summer music in the Shuswap for 22 years, but currently doesn’t have enough money to book acts for 2015.

Lody Kieken, with the Salmon Arm Folk Music Society, says the festival's contingency fund has been eroded, leaving nothing left to orchestrate next summer’s event. A combination of factors pooled into the perfect storm this past summer, Kieken says.

Attendance has trended downward for the last few years, but poor weather slammed the festival particularly hard this summer, down 10 per cent over last year. Kieken says the number of people buying tickets in advance stayed the same, but gate sales plummeted.

“We had a rainy day fund, but that rainy day fund is now gone,” Kieken says.

Competition with other festivals also meant fewer visitors.

“There are too many festivals in B.C.,” Kieken says. “There’s 150 festivals, that means there’s 15 each weekend to choose from. You just can’t maintain that.”

The loss of a $50,000 sponsor, Sirius Satellite, was yet another hit but there were others — dwindling government funding for the arts compounded by the rising costs of renting equipment, security, paying for utilities, and touring bands — that collectively broke the bank.

The society has appealed to the City of Salmon Arm and the community at large to help them come up with $150,000 to make next season a reality.

Festival organizers have looked at ways to cut costs, like reducing acts and canceling outreach programs like Routes and Blues.

“But we don’t want to do such a scaled down festival that people wouldn’t recognize it as the same high quality event as in previous years,” Kieken says.
Various fundraising opportunities are being eyed, such as a benefit concert, to raise funds and while concerned, the society is optimistic the festival will live on. Other music festivals in the region have already disappeared: the Komasket Music Festival, Nakusp Music Fest and Merritt Mountain Music Fest were all cancelled in recent years.

“We’re going to look at every way possible. Right now, there’s no idea that’s a bad idea,” Kieken says. “The festival has become a huge part of the community. Most people from outside Salmon Arm, it’s the first thing that comes to mind.”

The society is welcoming donations and creative ideas from the public. You can contact them at the Roots and Blues office at 250-833-4096 or by email, at

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

News from © iNFOnews, 2014

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