Organizers of the 16th annual Shambhala Music Festival weren’t content to rest on any laurels as they hosted 10,000 people over this past weekend.
Held on the Salmo River Ranch, six stages played non-stop music including a diverse range of international headliners including Griz, Far Too Loud, Justin Martin and People Under the Stairs along side local bands like Arthur Funkarelli and Val Kilmer and the New Coke as well as DJs Adham Shaikh and B-Ron.
Executive producer Corrine Zawaduk says several new features were unveiled at this year’s festival including The AMPhitheatre stage, formerly the Rock Pit. Also new this year was “Blaze Burgers,” a new Shambhala vendor offering up “one-mile” burgers made from cows that once grazed the very pastures in which festivalgoers camped.
Throughout the festival’s “downtown,” the Farm Dec team created a giant sculpted dragon, whimsical lampposts and an open stage area by the Wish Tree, where festivalgoers could tie their wishes to an old growth cedar.
“Our efforts in the past few years to develop the downtown zone as a gathering place have really paid off,” says Zawaduk. “This year, we had everything from fire sculptures, to an open stage, to the world’s largest kaleidoscope (live performance), to a giant inflatable projector screen where guests could play vintage video games, like Tetris.”
Zawaduk was pleased with the crowd that gathered for the festival this year.
Competing with other events held over the weekend had a positive effect on Shambhala, she says.
“It’s the first year in a few years we hadn’t sold out before we opened our gates, but all the nice people ended up here. Overall, things went very smoothly, it was a beautiful festival.”
Nelson Police Department chief Wayne Holland attended the festival for a tour with Zawaduk and other staff. This is the third year in a row he’s taken a short trip to the Shambhala site.
He feels it’s a good exercise in awareness for his new officers and the police board members because talk surrounding the festival — be it positive or negative — isn’t valid enough to base an opinion.
“I want them to see the other side of the coin,” he says. “I think it’s fair to say you shouldn’t criticize or complement before you go out there and see the extent to which, and troubles to which, they go to run a well-oiled machine of an operation.”
Beyond the beauty of the décor, gardens and stages, Holland says safety gets as big a focus by festival organizers.
“They’re highly organized with regards to security and moving 10,000 people through that space there,” he says.
As the festival lets out and that crowd migrates home, they make stops along the way. The Queen City is a popular point of pause.
Nelson Police Department puts extra officers on the street and keeps stats on the ensuing bustle crowds bring. On foot patrol and bicycles, they are able to hit the beaches among other areas not accessible by vehicle.
The local department is also working with Canadian Pacific Railway officers to ensure people don’t camp along the tracks west of Nelson and in the city at Cottonwood Falls.
Holland says people moving through town aren’t only associated with Shambhala. Some are nomadically coming through with one group in particular there every summer. Police ask at least several dozen people on a daily basis to keep moving.
“That’s for health reasons and for safety reasons,” he says. “There’s a group of people that go through every year wandering through aimlessly and they just leave the park in a filthy condition and/or cause damage.”
The local police department’s post-Shambhala statistics will be available in the next couple weeks.