By Barb Brouwer
“I love this,” shouted Tom Cochrane from the MainStage Friday night.
And thousands of ROOTSandBLUES patrons responded with thunderous applause.
Members of the audience that stretched back to the food court and in between the beer garden and western fence were well ahead of Cochrane’s advice to enjoy life.
“I’ve been to a lot of festivals over the years and this one was so joyful and happy,” said Salmon Arm Folk Music Society board chair Kimm Magill-Hofmann, heaping praise on staff, volunteers and patrons. “The whole festival had such a celebratory atmosphere.”
And there was much for the society to celebrate as the 30th anniversary festival drew 30,944 people, exceeding the numbers for the last live festival in 2019.
For the first time, admission and beer garden tickets were available with credit or debit cards only. Festival sales exceeded expectations and caused a run on beer garden ticket machines, something that was remedied on Saturday with a third machine.
Greater attendance also created crowding at the Barn Stage, again, something Magill-Hofmann said can also be easily addressed for future festivals.
She expressed gratitude for Harry Manx, who took the place of Colin Linden, and George Leach, who stepped in for Cedric Burnside when both performers were unable to attend.
Executive director David Gonella drew praise for setting the standard of having a fantastic festival and leading the team to this huge success as did artistic director Kevin Tobin for his first ROOTSandBLUES Festival. Credit was also given to dedicated volunteers, who put in many extra hours because of a drop in volunteer numbers.
Also receiving a grateful nod was Salmon Arm Security.
“Security was very good this year,” she said. “I saw them dealing with issues, not letting people with drinking cups out of the beer gardens, checking people’s bags and being friendly and helpful.”
The security company also received kudos from Salmon Arm RCMP Staff-Sgt. Scott West, who said they did a “bang-up job.”
“It went off very well given the fact our population almost more than doubled over the weekend,” he said, noting police had more to deal with in outer-lying areas of the city than they did with anything attributable to the festival. “There were very limited issues as it pertains to police investigations.”
West dubbed the festival a great event and said detachment members want to be visible at community events, not necessarily as enforcement.
“We want to be a visual presence so people feel safe, and, if there are issues they know we are there to deal with them,” he said. “If it could happen more often, we just become part of the crowd – unless we’re called in to act.”
Exhausted but buoyed like most of the people who attended the festival, Tobin felt great, praised Gonella and said he doesn’t think most people understand the amount of work that goes into presenting such a world-class event.
“You can’t put something like this together without support from the community,” he said, noting there were many unknowns after two years of Covid and online festivals. “The festival has great bones and a great template to continue to build on and make the festival experience even better.”
Attendees were moving and grooving to the diverse music emanating from four stages between noon and late at night at the MainStage and Barn Stage.
Cochrane and Jann Arden drew massive crowds as did fan favourites Five Alarm Funk, whose amazing musicianship combined with hilarious vocals and antics to a delighted audience.
Vendors did well, with some food vendors coming close to running out of food and, despite the hot and humid weather, patrons were relaxed and more than ready to embrace the experience.
“The whole board is just utterly delighted with what for many is like a family reunion,” said Magill-Hofmann. “The majority of people come from out of town having discovered that the festival is one of the treasures of the Shuswap.”
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