It took an awful lot of people to bring Starbelly Jam back.
According to organizer Farley Cursons, when the Crawford Bay festival held their annual general meeting earlier this year he couldn’t believe how many fresh faces were packed into the space — especially since it had taken a year off.
“We ended up having the biggest turnout we’ve ever had of business owners, community members and folks who were completely new to the organization,” Cursons told the Star this weekend.
“It really gave us all hope that maybe we could get a bit of succession happening, that we were getting some new blood for Starbelly Jam, and now we can be really conscious about succession and creating a knowledge base because we’re basically running a city here every year.”
Crawford Bay has shrunk considerably since the festival was launched in 1999, and Cursons noted the local school’s population has dropped from 400 to about 70. With their mine now closed and the forestry sector struggling, he said the festival has become one of their best opportunities to boost the economy and support local artisans.
“Having the year off really gave the board of directors a chance to look at our vision and what we want to do. Do we want a big, big, big production or do we want to maintain that Kootenay culture, that intimacy?”
He said they’ve now designed the infrastructure of the festival so it can be more sustainable long-term. This year they sold 1,000 tickets before the festival even started, and though he didn’t yet have final numbers Cursons said the festival was “successful on pretty much every level” this year.
“I glance over at our accountant every now and then, and she’s smiling — so that’s a good sign.”
One major change is that Starbelly Jam is now a charity, after running as a non-profit for the last 17 years. He said this part of a larger trend, and will ultimately mean they’ll be able to write off more of their expenses. And though they’re getting serious about upping their services and professionalism, he still wants to keep the party spirit alive.
“I always think about Woodstock and compare it. I mean, they had how many million people and about four bathrooms? Makes me wonder what the festival has become in this day and age,” he said.
“Like every business or organization or tour company, we’re all faced with liability and due diligence and we’re meeting it, we’re on it, we have all our ducks in a row — but it’s a chaotic thing, any festival has its own spirit at some point.”
The festival spilled out of the grounds and into the surrounding campground, essentially taking over the city for the weekend. Though most of the festivities were planned for, much of the activity was dictated by the festival-goers themselves.
“There’s an element where we’re in control, but are we really in control?” he joked.
The weekend featured performances from performers such as Kytami, the Slocan Ramblers, the Boom Booms, Frase, The Eisenhauers, Alpine Conspiracy and Cam Penner. Also on offer: yoga, ukulele workshops, kid’s crafts and light painting.
“Music festivals are a way for communities to express their culture, their tolerance of one another. We get all these different types of people together for that one reason of celebrating what it is to be human.”