Festival elicits mixed emotions

The annual music festival, Shambhala, begins Thursday, but local businesses have been preparing for months.

This weekend, nearly 15,000 people will be making Salmo, a town of 1,200, their home for a few days.

The annual music festival, Shambhala, begins Thursday, but local businesses have been preparing for months. Connie Stavast, manager at The Salmo Pump gas station, says they start preparing for the weekend well in advance of the festivities.

“It’s a small town and it is a big weekend,” she said. “We start prepping in May. That is when we start really focusing on the products and doing our bigger orders.”

Part of the preparation is looking at sales from the previous years to predict how much stock to order for the event and even hiring some extra staff that may seem out of place at a gas station.

“What we generally do is see what our sales were the previous year and then we order the appropriate amount for that and then a little extra,” said Stavast. “We hire more staff and we hire security.”

Stavast says Shambhala is the biggest weekend for sales and helps The Salmo Pump throughout the rest of the year.

“Basically, it carries us through the winter,” she said. “There is nothing really here and Shambhala is the big thing.”

Although it is the biggest weekend for The Salmo Pump, Stavast isn’t sad when it is over.

“We look forward to see it come and we look forward to seeing it go,” she said with a laugh.

The Mayor of Salmo, Ann Henderson, agrees that Shambhala is good for local business, but not so good for Salmo’s infrastructure.

“It is not going anywhere, so we might as well embrace it,” she said about the festival. “It affects our public works. Where normally, garbage cans are emptied once a week and now we often have to empty them three times a day.”

One aspect of the festival that irks Henderson is the stress on the ambulance service and the local RCMP. She says it would be better if Shambhala would help with the stress on public services.

“I’ve had people that were injured in an accident and they were put on the back burner because the ambulances were coming in so fast with drug overdoses,” she said. “People who were genuinely injured, not of their own choice, were not being looked after. The use of our ambulance system and our police system is, I feel, something they should pay for.”

According to Shambhala organizers, the festival has donated $5,000 to the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital to assist this year and they have doctors and nurses on site during the event.

Henderson says the festival crowds have changed over the years, and so have festival organizers.

“They are an Ltd. company now, so they have definitely incorporated and it is more business-like,” she said the week before the festival. “I understand they are under new management now and they are not communicating with us. There was a lot more camaraderie and communication before and now that isn’t happening.”

Shambhala runs from Aug. 6 to 11.