Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer Booker T. Jones leads his band in a song on the Roots & Blues main stage on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.

Fest a success despite wildfires

Roots and Blues earns good reviews, small increase in festivalgoers, sales

Smoky skies didn’t cloud the success of the 2017 Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival.

“With the summer we had, with emergency fire warnings and other festivals cancelling, we were pretty glad to come out on the black side with revenue,” executive director David Gonella told city council late last year.

Council responded with kudos.

“The profit last year and a little profit this year, that’s a tribute to the board,” Coun. Alan Harrison said.

“From those ticket sales graphs, you can see really they’re high in advance in March. If they hadn’t been, when the smoke rolled in, they wouldn’t have been so high… I’d like to thank the board publicly and the staff that’s there.”

The 2017 festival tallied a profit of about $40,000.

Gonella said general cost increases were across the board, including more than $10,000 for the office move, a series of break-ins at the quonset amounting to about $10,000, replacement storage $5,000, security costs $8,000 and travel and training costs of $16,000.

Related: Roots & Blues 2017 a family affair

Related: Crawl kicks off Roots & Blues

About 27,000 people attended the festival, “a slight increase from last year,” Gonella says.

The festival was promoted heavily in the Lower Mainland and Calgary, he said, as were day trips.

Fifty-seven per cent of attendees came from outside the area, 66 per cent stayed in the Shuswap two or more days, and 76 per cent said they are planning to return in 2018, according to statistics gathered from more than 500 surveys on site as well as a post-event online survey.

Eleven per cent of attendees were in the 18 to 34 age bracket, 27 per cent from 35 to 55 and 37 per cent 56 and up.

Gonella showed a map of the reach of the festival, which extended across North America, with even a few sales in Europe.

To make the festival financially successful, Gonella said the three core staff explored new grants and funding opportunities, expanded ticket sales via Askew’s, the Orchard Park Shopping Mall in Kelowna and with lots of help from the Hillcrest Elementary Parent Advisory Council.

The use of billboards was increased in locations such as the Tsawwassen ferry, West Kelowna, Chase, Three Valley Gap and Enderby. Roots and Blues also worked with Shuswap Tourism and Destination BC on promotions, and increased in-kind sponsorship.

Gonella said new sponsor, Canada Dry Motts, introduced a popular tasting area.

This year’s Roots and Blues Festival will be held Aug. 16 to 19. Tickets are available online at www.rootsandblues.ca, or by calling 250-833-4096.

In the meantime, one of the hugely popular entertainers at the 2017 festival, Irish Mythen, will perform on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at First United’s The Nexus, 450 Okanagan Ave. SE in Salmon Arm, doors open at 6:30 p.m, concert starts at 7.

For those interested in the inner workings of the festival, the Salmon Arm Folk Music Society annual general meeting will be held on Jan. 17 at the Comfort Inn in Salmon Arm. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the AGM will begin at 7. Membership, past and present, and the public are invited to attend.

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