The temperatures might be frigid, but preparations for the 2019 Roots and Blues festival are already heating up.
At the root of Salmon Arm’s hottest summer festival is the eclectic musical menu and the commitment of staff, volunteers and the board to produce a rich and culturally diverse experience.
While the acts change every year, the board of the Salmon Arm Folk Music Society and backbone of the Roots and Blues Festival remains unchanged yet again.
In his opening remarks at the Jan. 30 AGM, Folk Music Society chair Brook Roberts commented on the society’s need to respond to climate change, particularly following the province’s wildfires in the past two summers. One approach the board has taken is in creating an environment committee to take proactive steps in reducing waste and carbon emissions.
Banning the sale of single-use water bottles, having food sellers use compostable plates and cutlery and having eco volunteers available at several of the new recycling stations scattered about the site was fundamental to significant reduction in the amount of waste heading to the landfill.
This was confirmed in festival executive director David Gonella’s report: 7 tons of waste were delivered to the landfill in 2017. But with the new measures in 2018, 7.6 tons were processed, but only 2.7 tons went to the landfill. Another 2.4 tons were recycled and 2.5 tons were composted – for a potential 5.1 reduction in material going to the landfill.
Gonella was also proud to report that since 2017, DestinationBC considers the festival to be a tourism anchor event in the Shuswap that benefits both the local business community and the provincial economy.
“The Festival is the highest attended outdoor music festival in the BC interior,” he said. “The 26th Salmon Arm Roots and Blues attendance improved by 700 over previous year, reaching 27,700 festival attendees over the entire four-day event.
Shuswap Tourism staff surveyed more than 526 people on-site and in a post-event online survey that revealed attendance by age group was 18 to 34 – 8 per cent, 35-55 – 26 per cent and 56-plus – 66 per cent.
“Seventy-five per cent of festivalgoers came from outside of the Shuswap, 65 per cent stayed in the Shuswap for two-plus days and 78 per cent said they plan to attend the 2019 festival,” Gonella reported.
A success in terms of attendance, the festival broke even, in part due to the purchase of storage containers and renovations to the kitchen under the fairgrounds kitchen, providing the opportunity for community use.
“We have money and we are making money,” said board director Brenda M’Clellan.
Artistic director Peter North commented on the magical moments of the 2018 festival, one of them being the massive crowd that attended the Sunday afternoon performance on the Blues Stage that included Rick Vito, Colin James, Monkeyjunk and Big Dave McLean.
The magic was also felt by the performs, including former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Vito, who sent North a “thank you” email within 72 hours saying it “was certainly the most enjoyable festival show I’ve been part of to date and I’ve been doing them all over the world for many years.”
Vito also give North kudos for his selection of festival performers, “some of the finest players I’ve come across,” and the excellence of the house band.
“No other festival that I am aware of as taken the same approach in pairing musicians from different backgrounds together to fuse such an exciting spontaneity, both for the musicians and the audience to experience for the first time,” Vito wrote of the workshops North creates each year.
Reminding everyone that the Canadian dollar restricts artist choices, North maintains the reaction of musicians and fans provides a serious foundation for the future.
He says Roots and Blues takes fan input very seriously.
“As we head into the 2019 festival, the response to the acts we’ve released have been positive and we’ve still got four headliners to release, along with strong components of blue, emerging B.C. and Alberta artists and veteran players who cover a lot of musical ground.”