Starbelly Jam hiatus a sign of festival fatigue

The difficulties in hosting large scale music festivals.

  • Feb. 1, 2016 6:00 a.m.

CRAWFORD BAY Following the cancellation of this year’s Starbelly Jam music festival, local enthusiasts are trying to prevent other large-scale events from going belly-up.

“For 16 years our small East Shore community has laboured mightily to host one of the province’s best music festivals,” reads an announacement on the Starbelly website. “Each year hundreds of beautiful volunteers have stepped forward to make this party happen.”

Unfortunately, this year that won’t be the case.

“We were facing real challenges filling a handful of key management roles that would have allowed us to produce the vibrant, safe and well-organized event that we are famous for,” the notice reads.

Kootenay Lake Chamber of Commerce chair Gina Medhurst said the news will mean an economic blow to the East Shore.

“Every year at Starbelly the campgrounds are crowded, the bed and breakfasts are packed full and all the stores are open until 9 p.m. every night. It’s definitely going to be an economic shock,” she said.

“I know all the Starbelly volunteers felt really bad and it wasn’t an easy decision for them. I’d been hearing chatter for two or three months, so I know they spent a long time making that difficult decision.”

An unintended consequence is the cancellation of the Kootenay Gutbuster, a comedy festival scheduled to run the weekend following Starbelly in Crawford Bay in July. It’s now been moved to Creston.

In Nelson, the Kootenay Storytelling Festival has been cancelled this year, according to outgoing organizer Avia Moore, and the Kootenay Spirit Festival’s future is in doubt, according to organizer Trisha Wilson. The Kaslo Jazz Etc. Festival will go ahead, executive director Paul Hinrichs said, but it is also struggling with diminishing volunteer resources.

Hinrichs said the trouble is all the work “is on the shoulders of a few.”

“Volunteer burnout is a very real situation. And even if it’s a paid position, often there isn’t enough to make it worthwhile. So you end up with people who are unqualified or just not able to carry the responsibility these huge festivals require.”

“If it was up to the people who lived here, we would have a festival every single day,” Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism’s Dianna Ducs told the Advertiser. “But across the board we’re seeing these festivals struggle with volunteer exhaustion. People get exhausted volunteering year after year for little or no pay.”

Carla Stephenson of Ymir’s Tiny Lights Festival figures part of the trouble is festival fatigue for audiences in the Nelson area. Her event, now in its fifth year, attracts more than half its visitors from places like Calgary and Edmonton.

“There’s so much great stuff to do here it’s hard to get people to come out and see a band they could see anytime in town,” she said.

The full version of this story can be found at bitly.com/Festival_fatigue.

 

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