Colin James rocks the Main Stage at the 2018 Roots & Blues Festival. (File photo)

Roots & Blues Festival gets grant to attract new followers

More than $120,000 comes from provincial tourism events program

Barb Brouwer


Salmon Arm Roots and Blues has received $121,250 to spend directly on marketing the 2020 festival.

A $3 million grant provided through the provincial government’s tourism events program will provide marketing funding to 45 events taking place in B.C. between October 2019 and September 2020.

The local funding will be used to spread the word about the festival and to draw new people to the community, says Roots and Blues Festival executive director David Gonella.

“It’s an extremely competitive process; we had to apply last April, right in the thick of things,” says Gonella of the time when preparations for the festival are in high gear. “This is the second year of support and we’re very appreciative.”

Following the August Roots and Blues Festival, Gonella spends the month of September reporting on grants received and applying for new ones to help pay for the following year’s festival.

Grant applications are made right through to June as they account for one-third of the annual budget.

Read more: Working it out at Roots and Blues Festival

Read more: In photos: The 27th annual Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival

Responding to some calls for bigger headliners, Gonella paints a clear picture on the festival’s financial abilities.

“Major pop stars going to U.S.-based concerts get $1 million plus and that’s four times our entire budget,” he says. “We’re not comparing apples to apples, it’s more like apples to watermelons.

Actual figures have not yet been released, but Gonella says the festival made money in 2019.

“We were in the positive for sure, but we had 500 less ticket sales,” he says, pointing out it was the smoothest running festival he has ever been involved in. “It seemed like from patrons to volunteers, across the board people seemed to be having a great time.”

Gonella says much of the credit goes to having new staff – Holly Ketter, a year-round volunteer and grant co-ordinator, along with Selina Metcalfe, who is a year-round, part-time sponsorship co-ordinator. Two site co-ordinators have eased Gonella’s load as well.

“I felt like I was micromanaging so I needed to step back a bit,” he says, noting efforts are well underway to make the 2020 festival even better. “The fact I am not doing so many different things is parlaying into more efficiencies – more hands do quick work.”

Read more: Roots and Blues gets great reviews plus accessibility suggestions

Read more: Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival exceeds expectations

Gonella says organizers are also excited Roots and Blues is presenting more concerts throughout the year.

Next up are award-winning folk singer/songwriters Pharis and Jason Romero at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23 at the Nexus. Tickets are available at, by phoning 250-833-9537 or by dropping into the office at Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival at 541 Third St. SW at the corner of Fifth Avenue SW.


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