Roots and Blues Festival still sizzles after 20 years

Some 25,581 walked through the festival gates on the weekend, compared to 2011’s gate of 27,405.

Outreach: Members of the Shuffle Demons make their way along the wharf Wednesday following a Roots and Blues outreach event held before the weekend’s 20th annual festival.

The numbers were down, but if smiles, energetic dancing and wild applause were any indication,  those who attended this year’s Roots and Blues Festival got their money’s worth.

Some 25,581 walked through the festival gates on the weekend, compared to 2011’s gate of 27,405.

As usual, Saturday’s crowd was the largest, with 9,114 in attendance. Some 8,042 showed up for Friday night’s slate and 8,425 attended Sunday.

Shortly after 3 p.m. Sunday, one tired artistic director sat down with an equally tired reporter to talk about the magic that was the 20th anniversary of the festival.

“It’s hot,” began Hugo Rampen, acknowledging that while attendance numbers might be a little light over other years, audiences were enthusiastic and seemed to be happy with the performers.

And the enthusiasm was reciprocated.

“Almost every performer has come up to me to say they’ve never been to a better festival than this one,” said Rampen. “I can’t remember which one it was, but I asked one of them what we could do better, and he said ‘nothing, you’re cutting edge; everyone else has to catch up to you.’”

Pleased the festival rocked the same good vibes as last year, Rampen said Roots and Blues has developed into a full-family festival, with everything from infants carried in their parents’ arms, to the elderly slowly making their way about with canes or walkers and a number of people in wheelchairs.

Rampen was also delighted that 6 a.m. clean-up crews had very little to do.

“There was no litter; our audiences were so responsible,” he said,  noting that from a logistics standpoint, the volunteer team did an exceptional job.

And Rampen’s satisfaction with how the event unfolded extended beyond the fairground site.

“I am incredibly happy with the Routes and Blues and the Music Crawl,” he said of both highly successful pre-festival outreach programs. “The venues were full and people were enjoying themselves – they’re important events for the community.”

It was congratulations all round as the Salmon Arm RCMP praised the event.

“(We) wish to congratulate Roots and Blues organizers for a well-run event,” says Staff Sgt. Kevin Keane, head of the Salmon Arm detachment.

RCMP responded to approximately 20 calls for service directly related to the festival, which included minor theft, a missing person, assisting security in removing some unruly patrons, fireworks and some youth issues.

A total of five people were arrested for intoxication, which was a substantial decrease from last year.

There’s mutual admiration, too, as Rampen notes the Folk Music Society invites and appreciates having the police on-site.

Also delighted with the 20th anniversary celebration is Lody Kieken, Salmon Arm Folk Music Society chair.

“I thought it was a good festival,” he said. “The weather co-operated and the energy in the crowd was good – lots of smiling faces and great acts.”

Kieken said he is always happy to hear the rave reviews the army of more than 900 volunteers receives from the performers.

“I think that’s one of our assets,” he said. “That’s about eight per cent of our population.”

While he enjoyed all the acts, Kieken had a few favourites – Cherine, Betty Levette, Coco Montoya and the Shuffle Demons.

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