Giant Waterbug was one of the bands that performed on Sunday at Unity Festival. Photo: Will Johnson

Giant Waterbug was one of the bands that performed on Sunday at Unity Festival. Photo: Will Johnson

Slocan celebrates Unity

Festival flooded with Kootenay families

Kootenay families who happened to meander to the end of Slocan’s main drag during Unity Festival last weekend were met with a striking visual juxtaposition: to the right was waist-high scrub grass and the empty lot that used to house their mill, and to the left was an idyllic beach scene packed with circus-style tents, families sprawled on picnic blankets and dancing toddlers running into the lake.

“It’s as much a swimming festival as it is a music festival,” organizer Scott Milne told the Star on Sunday evening, after selling approximately 1,000 tickets over the weekend.

“A big part of what makes us special is the family focus, how this gives us all a chance to party with our kids.”

The Nelson electronic producer is one of the driving forces behind the festival, alongside Chris Berger and Felicity Gerwing, and they aim to give the event a quintessential Slocan Valley flavour — which means, given the huge number of young parents, lots and lots of babies.

Some of their acts weren’t used to seeing so many little ones. Many of them, like El Papachango, are mainstays on the festival circuit and well-known to fans of Shambhala, but they rarely get to play for younger audiences. Seeing the kids rock out on the beach has been a highlight for Berger.

“The whole idea is for this to be an affordable family festival. It’s about bringing all the generations together to dance and celebrate in this beautiful venue, and just be happy,” she said.

Nelson acts that took the stage included Dirt Floor, Alpine Conspiracy, Heavy Airship, Immune2Cobras and Erica Dee. On Sunday evening Adham Shaikh performed at the Valhalla Stage, leading the beach-dancers in a singalong tribute to water.

So what’s the feedback been like from the performers and participants?

“We hear ‘oh my God, this is Heaven’, ‘this is paradise’, ‘how do we move here?’ Every year it gets a little bit better, and all we feel is grateful to come together in this beautiful place,” said Berger.

Milne is also a member of the electronic duo Intersect, and he performed alongside his collaborator Rahj Levinson late on Friday night.

“It was wonderful. At first absolutely nobody was in front of us, and it was pitch dark, and then when we started all these teenagers flooded up to the stage and pretty soon the whole dance floor was packed and raging. You look down and the people are just loving it, dancing it up, and the oldest person you can spot is like 17.”

Things were pretty wholesome.

“People aren’t coming to Unity to party. That’s not what this is about, it’s about bringing our kids and dancing together, sharing that with other families.”

Slocan has hosted Unity seven times now, and they’re planning to keep it going as long as they can according to Milne. For him, Unity is a special opportunity to perform alongside both his wife and daughter.

“We’re a family affair, and we’re here to stay.”

Nelson Star