The 15th annual Shambhala Music Festival came to a close on Monday and despite a Sunday tragedy that resulted in the death of an attendee, organizers said it was “amazing.”
“It was incredible this year,” Corrine Zawaduk, executive producer told the Star on Monday as the festival wrapped up on the Salmo River Ranch. “We were really focused on tightening up some of our processes.”
There were 10,000 people in attendance at this year’s festival, which in addition to showcasing some of the world’s best electronic music, aimed to go beyond the music.
“We wanted to give the downtown a new feel,” said Zawaduk. “We did this work in the fall where we were really looking at what to add to Shambhala. Our stages are really great, they are artistic and beautiful, but we wanted to see what we could give our crowd that would complement that.”
The festival’s downtown encompasses hand-picked vendors, a gallery space known as Bass Camp which also houses the event’s Shambassadors, a garden and a food market in addition to first aid, human resources and other operational facilities.
“As much as we are all one on the dancefloor, you also want to meet and greet people and self express,” said Zawaduk. “We are trying to create this downtown zone that’s gardens and arts and about socializing. We created a little tea tree hut which turned out to be an epically beautiful spot instead of just a hut.”
Zawaduk said in their 15th year, organization of the festival keeps getting better and better.
“We keep trying to up our level of service,” she said. “We realize with the mainstreaming of electronic music that it’s going to be tougher for us to differentiate ourselves. Also for us because we’re non-sponsored, we don’t have any support and all these DJs are making a lot more money than they used to. For our longevity we have to ensure that we have exceptional service, that everyone has a great time and we really have to work on those things to make sure we’re still here in another 15 years.”
After selling out in record time and winning accolades including the 2012 Breakspoll award for best large event, Shambhala has gained a reputation for being a world-class festival.
“I feel really, really proud to hear that we’re being referred to as a ‘world-class’ festival,” said Zawaduk.
“I have been going to other festivals and events to learn how to achieve that world-class level of service and every time I go to a different show I see, for example, a lot of festivals and events use contracted workers. Instead, we work really hard on integrating everyone. Everybody is an employee of Shambhala Music Festival, there are not a lot of contracted workers here. We really work with them on customer service, because to us it’s all about the people on the dancefloor and it’s all about their experience. They are the shareholders in our company.”
The mainstreaming of electronic music through the inclusion of the genre in many top 40 songs, has changed the demographics of the festival.
“What we’re finding is that this mainstreaming of electronic events is also mainstreaming the attendees that are coming and with that you are getting club bar stars and this whole un-Shambhala element coming into the show which has caused some problems for us this year,” said Zawaduk.
“With the fame and the world-class attention, there comes problems as well. There will be a debriefing with our security and first aid teams and looking at how to tackle that in the future. We’ll come up with a strategy.”
One of the strategies organizers are looking at implementing in the future is memberships.
“Scalpers have become a real problem for us,” said Zawaduk. “They are buying bulk tickets and we have no idea who they are selling them to or where they are going. If we do a membership where everyone is a citizen of Shambhala, we feel we might have less of these people who come just for the sake of the party and not for the sake of participating in the community.”
The biggest reward for Zawaduk is in the comments she hears from attendees.
“It’s always touching to hear that people can feel like they can be themselves here,” she said.
“They feel like they aren’t going to be judged for wearing butterfly wings or just to come and dance. It is really liberating for a lot of people. We hear a lot of great stories out there from folks that this has touched their lives in a way that they carry it in their heart for the rest of the year.”
She said the event often inspires people to pursue careers as videographers or in lighting and sound.
“Even though we face challenges that a city might face at this point and at this level in our growth, there is a lot of beauty and magic happening here and it inspires me everyday to keep going,” said Zawaduk.