We were saddened by the news that a young man died at Shambhala Music Festival on Sunday. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.
The unfortunate incident, however, should not define this year’s festival. Nor, as some have suggested, should this spell the end of the event that draws 10,000 music lovers to the Salmo River Ranch each August.
The festival has been a summer staple in the Kootenays and on the electronic music scene for 15 years. This is the first time somebody has died. It’s a rather incredible statistic when you consider 10,000 adults (you have to be 19 to get onto the festival grounds) gather to create what is essentially a temporary city with a population that exceeds Nelson.
Shambhala is primarily known for the world class musicians it brings to its incredibly designed stages each summer. That’s why music lovers gather in what has become a pilgrimage for many. It’s also known for the amount of drugs ingested by its ticket holders. When it comes to the electronic music scene, it’s pretty clear the two go hand-in-hand.
The Shambhala organizers do an impressive job of controlling the drug scene at their festival. The security company they hire worked the Vancouver Olympics. They do their best to keep drugs off of the site, but it’s not overly difficult to conceal the illegal drugs.
Knowing festival-goers are going to get drugs in and use them in a liberal way to enhance their experience, organizers have many resources on site to deal with the issue. From harm reduction education to volunteer doctors and nurses, there has been a lot of thought put into preparing for the worst.
It boils down to individual choices. Those who decide to do drugs take a risk. Sometimes that risk has grave consequences.
Death at music festivals is nothing new. It happens at venues all across North America. Bringing together masses of people bent on having a good time is going to eventually result in tragedy. It’s sad, but hardly inevitable.
This weekend the worst-case scenario happened. Someone died and it has likely shaken the entire Shambhala team. But to blame organizers or blame the festival is unfair. Asking questions is the easy part, finding the answers will be much more difficult.