By Barb Brouwer
Maybe the best; at the very least, one of the best!
That was the sentiment expressed by many artists and patrons at the 27th annual Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival that played out in nearly perfect weather.
While the numbers will be tallied over the next few days, organizers are able to say that the number of walk-ins who purchased tickets at the gate is up over 2018.
Relaxing in the hospitality area between performing and acting as MC at the main stage Sunday night, the irrepressible Valdy expressed his glowing opinion, with the recommendation that nothing about the festival needs to be changed.
“I haven’t felt the vibe that this backstage has since the Edmonton Folk Music Fest in 2012,” he said, claiming artistic director Peter North did a great job blending workshop elements. “Everything is weathered here; there are no sharp edges.”
Declaring himself to be “thrilled to bits,” North described the positive and enthusiastic feedback he received as ridiculous, and agreed the workshop collaborations seemed to hit the mark.
“Everyone is in agreement that this is a very special weekend and for it to be this great is a credit to absolutely everybody on the team,” he said Sunday.
North called executive director David Gonella’s continued tweaks to the site amazing and credited the festival’s smooth administration to the special skills of Cindy Diotte and her office team.
“It seemed to come off without a hitch – beyond my expectations,” he said, pointing out that in his 40-plus years of being involved in producing shows, TV productions and events, he has never felt more satisfied. “Artistically we may not have the biggest budget, or close to it, but sheer talent isn’t about fame.”
Salmon Arm Folk Music Society board chair Brook Roberts was also singing the praises of everyone involved in hosting the festival, including the artists, whether on stage or in workshops.
“That is the magic in Peter’s craft; it’s not a fluke to see three in a row that were such world-class,” he said of the several consecutive workshops he attended. “And David is running the site like a well-oiled machine.”
Roberts says the board has been working hard to make sure everyone has a great experience, including staff and volunteers. And, while there may be some room for improvement, he met many happy people on-site and had very few issues to deal with over the four-day festival.
“So often we have seen ourselves as the runt of the litter compared to festivals in Edmonton and Vancouver,” he said, noting the complex festival offers patrons and their families much more than music, and that the happy quotient is an important one. “For first time, I thought this is our thing; we’re not gonna bring in a million-dollar act. This is like a house concert with intimacy and safety and we have to fly that banner high.”
Salmon Arm detachment Staff Sgt. Scott West also gave the RCMP seal of approval in an Aug. 19 email to this newspaper.
“The event was once again well-organized from a security perspective. Volunteers helping patrons, event security and RCMP visibility led to a secure event this year,” he wrote, noting the detachment did see a slight increase in calls for service compared to the previous weekend. “The increased workload is something that our office was prepared for and was expected and is precipitated by the sheer numbers of people that attend the event.”