Shambhala: The Largest West Kootenay City for One Week
Trying to explain the size and impact of Shambhala on the West Kootenays, Britz Robins gave me the helpful image of Shambhala actually being the largest city in the West Kootenays for a week. Now, given that cities in the West Kootenays are smallish, this isn’t to say that Shambhala is as large as Vancouver…or even Kelowna. But with 11,000 guests and over 1,000 workers and volunteers, it’s a pretty sizable venue. And “city” is a good word to describe the festival: the celebration of art, music and life includes 6 stages, multiple food vendors, and then a host of people and services to make sure everyone has a good time.
As I spoke with Britz, images of Bacchanal revelry kept entering my mind: Festivals I have attended around the world, always over-the-top, always a celebration of life, always a little edgy in the sense of being momentarily swept away from the obligations of daily life. And I was reminded how utterly human, how healthy, how necessary those festivals are.
And so we have Shambhala. For one week, festival goers can leave their everyday life behind and revel in the best electronic music available. Meet up with old and new friends, eat delicious organic food, and be tempted by craftspeople selling their wares.
Shambhala takes extremely good care to ensure that what they offer is an ideal festival experience: food vendors are carefully chosen to make sure that a wide variety of healthy and delicious choices are available. One of Shambhala’s own stalls serves burgers made from the cows who have been raised on the very farm the festival takes place in. Smoothies, juices, curries, mexican fare…Oso Negro makes a special blend for the festival called “Night Owl”: the choice is diverse and yummy.
Craftspeople are also chosen to ensure both that there’s a wide variety for festival goers, but also so each vendor can be reasonably sure they will do well. Being a vendor at a festival such as Shambhala is no walk in the park. With such an outlay of energy, it’s nice to know that the organizers try to help make it worth your time and effort.
Shambhala: Festival Culture Evolves
The indie electronic music festival scene, especially in the Pacific Northwest and California, has got a strong grassroots vibe which carries with it a volunteer-driven, wonderfully spirited soul. Shambhala is right there in the mix, carrying the flame of awesomeness. Offering a caring host of volunteers to help festival goers get the most of their experience, the emphasis at the festival is ensuring everyone feels safe so that maximum fun can be had.
As I listened to Britz, I couldn’t help wishing that we could offer the level of caring that is part of the experience of Shambhala in our daily lives: feeling a little unsure, a little like you need some space? There’s a tent for that. Feeling overwhelmed by the festival experience? There’s a tent for that, too. Have questions of a sexual nature? There’s the crew in purple shirts wandering through the festival to answer every question you’ve got & help you get what you need. And, thanks in large part to Stacey Locke, Shambhala is on the cutting edge of “harm reduction” doing everything they can to ensure that everyone stays safe. Which, by and large, they do. For a mini-city of that size, they have an excellent track record: One drug-related death in 16 years. And tens of thousands of people who come back, year after year, adding to the health and economy of the West Kootenays, injecting our area with a young and vibrant energy.