It started with a conversation about how the power of music can bring people together and now the Ponderosa Arts and Music festival is celebrating its second year.
In the summer of 2012 a gathering of close friends at an orchard party on a family farm in the Okanagan Valley ignited an idea in friends Kris Hargrave and Kia Zahrabi, who formed 367 Productions. It has since turned into a long weekend party of playing music, tubing down the river, camping under the stars and eating fruit fresh off the trees.
“We thought everyone was having so much fun, why don’t we make this into a festival? We both enjoy bringing people together and it is something that comes natural to us,” said Zahrabi.
Last summer, the Ponderosa Festival took place at the Rock Creek Fairgrounds and the two organizers believe the location, arts, food and music contribute to a unique experience. The three-day event, from Aug. 22 to 24, includes camping, 20 bands on two stages, local artists and a food market.
“We are striving to maintain a certain vibe and are looking to build a sense of community that we feel has faded from some of the larger outdoor music events,” said Zahrabi, who is originally from Oliver.
Focused on sustainability and organic growth, the organizers want to grow the event at a rate the community is comfortable with. For that reason, they see Ponderosa as a niche festival. Last year the festival saw 400 people come through the gates. The organizers are estimating a big jump in attendance for year two.
“It is a big site that can handle a lot more. While we are looking at making it a bit more intimate this year because the site is so big, we are aiming about 2,000 people,” said Zahrabi, adding the site can handle around 16,000. “We don’t want to make it a massive festival and are targeting this number to keep it sustainable.”
Zahrabi is an civil engineer by day, while Hargrave has some event planning background, and neither is doing it for the financial gain. It is about passion for music and bringing friends together.
“We have a lot of friends that played last year that are still talking about how great it was and the word keeps spreading in the scene,” said Zahrabi. “Big festivals are fine but we heard people are looking for a bit of change, especially the hard core music fans that want more of a personal kind of experience. That is the appeal of this festival.”
The Rock Creek Fairgrounds sit on the banks of the Kettle River that organizers say offer concerts goers a scenic venue to enjoy the outdoors and the music. Zahrabi said local business owners have been supportive because of the spike they receive with concert-goers spending money in the area.
While there were a few noise issues with neighbouring properties, Zahrabi said they are looking at various ways to mitigate that this time around. In the fall, the fairgrounds association held their annual general meeting and Zahrabi said they received overwhelming support from the community.
“That was a big win for us because we knew if the community was not on board then it wouldn’t work. We both grew up in small towns and we want to make sure we had the support,” he said.
In addition to the music, the festival showcases artists of all backgrounds. Last year artists participated in the Live Painting Project. Each painter created a piece over the course of the weekend and auctioned it off to the highest bidder.
Artists from across North America and B.C. will descend upon the town of Rock Creek including Plants and Animals, Blouse, BRAIDS, Good For Grapes, The Funk Hunters, Ladyhawk, Wampire, No Sinner, Gay Nineties, Jay Malinowski and the Deadcost, Kutapira, The Dead Zones, FRANKIE, Reef Shark, Wild Son, Joyful Door, LIO, Icelandia, The Banter and Terrence Jack.
Three-day weekend passes are $125 per person and include full access to the stages, riverside camping, free parking and artists and food vendors. A limited number of early-bird tickets are also on sale for $99. For more information visit www.PonderosaFestival.com.