For the 17th year in a row, nearly 10,000 festival-goers will gather in Salmo for four full days of electronic dance music.
Mitchell Scott, communications director for the Shambhala Music Festival, says with so many people making their way to the Salmo River Ranch, from Aug. 6-11, impact on the community is definitely on the minds of organizers.
“We educate our guests as much as possible to be sensitive to the communities in and around us,” he said ahead of the festival. “We are continually working with city managers in Nelson, Trail and Salmo to see what we can do to help mitigate the impact. We are always learning from previous festivals.”
The festival, known for elaborate stages, creative costumes and dance music, has only a few hundred tickets available at press time, and Scott says the huge crowds are beneficial to the local economy.
“I think if you talk to a lot of the business owners in the communities around us, it’s like another Christmas,” he said, adding that the festival promotes tourism to the region for the rest of the year.
“We like to think that as the festival becomes a staple, it brings a lot of positive economic impact to the area. There are a lot of people who come who are professionals and are coming to stay in hotels in the area and they are coming back to visit at other times of the year as well. There is a lot of money rolling through.”
Scott says safety for festival goers and residents in and around Salmo is at the top of the list for the weekend and includes a medical staff on site 24 hours a day.
“We have as close as you can get to an emergency room set up on site to respond to anything that can come up,” he said, adding that a death at the Pemberton Music Festival earlier in July has been brought up. “The guys running our first aid program are very experienced and have been doing this for a number of years. We also have a doctor on shift for the entire festival. We deal with things from a cut on the foot to bigger stuff.”
More serious medical issues get transferred to local hospitals, including the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital and festival organizers recognize there is added volume to certain services. Money is being donated to the hospital and other organizations in the area including programs that foster arts and culture education.
Even after the last artist has left the stage and guests are packing up, Scott says organizers still want to ensure that everyone is leaving the festival safely.
“We want to make sure that everyone is safe and comfortable,” he said. “We do everything we can to educate them to stay safe. We don’t push them off the ground after the festival. They can take the time to rest before they drive home.”
To add to the safe environment the festival is trying to foster, a new cell phone tower has been added to allow better service coverage throughout the four days of fun.
“We’re just looking for a great and incident-free time for everyone,” said Scott.