Photo Credit: Mary Matheson
Find your Groove: Make music festivals your summer vacation destination
This summer, we challenge you to plan a musical road trip to somewhere new: Never been to Atlin, Tumbler Ridge or Taylor? How about Iskut or Haida Gwaii? Don’t know where Dunster is? What about Kispiox, Wells or Rolla? Prefer a larger town? Check out Dawson Creek, Smithers, Jasper, Fort St. James or Terrace.
Northern BC’s music festivals are often located in out-of-the-way, one-of-a-kind places that are well worth your effort to visit. These remarkable events provide an outlet for the talented musicians and artists who call northern BC home, as well as visiting talent invited to inspire regional performers and festival attendees.
The music can be downright eclectic—from solo acts to crazy funk, blues to soul, reggae to multi-million-dollar headliners and everything in between. Sometimes the music descriptions and band names are half the entertainment, and spectators resort to you had to be there to describe the act. But music festivals aren’t just a spectator sport. There are many ways for musically inclined attendees to participate—from workshops to jamming with visiting bands.
Music aside, regional food can be a highlight and depending on the festival, the beer garden may be hopping (pun intended). Onsite camping is often available and is a great way to channel your inner hippie with shared meals, campfires, sing-alongs and bring-your-own-instrument jam sessions. Even if banging spoons on pots stretches your musical talent, everyone’s welcome—and encouraged—to create their own festival experience.
So check out the listings below, choose your festival and plan your trip. If you’re new to festival going you certainly won’t be disappointed and will quite possibly become a music fest addict. If you’re already a fan, well, you’ve likely already got your groove on. Either way, get ready. This summer is packed with festivals just waiting for you.
Sweetwater 905 Arts and Music Festival
Rolla, June 11
From $60. Free camping. Beer garden.
This family-friendly signature regional event has been going strong for 12 years. It provides opportunities to enjoy emerging and local artists plus established visiting musicians. Fun times include food, craft and art vendors, all in a relaxed farm setting. It’s only one day, so plan to go for a good time, not a long time.
More info: www.sweetwater905.com
Terrace, June 11-12
From $30. Camping nearby. Local craft beer.
This small-time festival is in its second year providing big-time entertainment. The fest welcomes local and regional talent plus select headliners to the little city on the Skeena. Workshops, food and craft vendors, plus a bonfire and community get-together round out the experience, so you’re sure to meet the locals at this one.
More info: Find WestFest on Facebook.
Midsummer Music Festival
Smithers, July 1-3
From $50. Camping $20. Beer garden.
As the longest-running music festival in northern BC, Midsummer embraces all genres of music and hosts an eclectic mix of musicians on four stages. There are world-class artists headlining every year along with workshops, jam sessions and a host of vendors. With such a variety of music and stages, you can kick back and relax or party the night away—your choice.
More info: www.smithersmusicfest.com
Dawson Creek Music Festival
Dawson Creek, July 10
Free admission. No camping.
This free, family-oriented outdoor festival is in its second year and the locals are pumped. The fest features bands from the Peace region, food vendors, bouncy castles, face painting, slip-and-slide and Movie in the Park. Whether you’re a resident or just travelling through, this fest is a great way to spend a summer day.
More info: Find Dawson Creek Music Festival on Facebook.
Atlin Arts and Music Festival
Atlin, July 8-10
From $142. Camping $40 adjacent to festival.
Beer garden. No pets.
Atlin’s combo arts and music fest draws performers and visitors from across the region, swelling the town to six times its usual size. Now in its 13th year, the fest has a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere where the town is the festival. There are diverse art, music and kids’ workshops, plus headline musicians, artists and films. Join the fun in phenomenal scenery.
More info: www.atlinfestival.ca
Taylor, July 16
From $71. VIP Camping $101 onsite.
No outside food, beverages. No pets.
This fest boasts headliners on two stages plus a showcase of local talent from around the Peace region. It’s a one-day, family-friendly event filled with music, food and art vendors. Plus there’s a free shuttle from Fort St. John, so grab some friends and make some memories dancing the night away.
More info: www.canolafest.com
Sacred Headwaters Music Festival
Iskut, July 15-17
Free admission. Free camping onsite.
As much community get-together as music festival, this family-oriented fest has provided a place to meet new and old friends since 2005. There are no headliners and all musicians are welcome. Additional entertainment includes food vendors, kids’ activities, raffles and dance-offs, all in stunning scenery. Bring your instruments, pull up a chair and celebrate community at this fest (and feast!).
Kispiox Valley Music Festival
Kispiox Rodeo Grounds, July 22-24
From $20. Camping onsite.
No dogs. No alcohol.
With a great reputation built over 22 years of providing every type of music, many locals plan their holidays around this fest. There’s music for everyone on the main stage along the river, plus an intimate indoor stage. Camping, food vendors, merchants, a kids’ area and much more round out a fantastic weekend. Bring your dancing shoes—let’s get the party started.
More info: www.kvmf.ca
Grizfest Music Festival
Tumbler Ridge, July 30-31
From $110. Offsite camping from $18.
No dogs. No glass bottles or outside alcohol. Beer garden.
This fest has been presenting diverse musical talent plus kids’ games, a horseshoe tournament and face painting for the last 15 years. But it’s not just an entertaining event—you can be part of the show! There’s a free battle-of-the-bands and vocalist competition on Friday, July 29 with cash prizes and a chance to open Grizfest. So tune up your voice and get ready to rock the stage.
More info: www.grizfest.com
ArtsWells Festival of All Things Art
Wells, July 29-Aug. 1
From $152. Camping from $20 onsite.
No cell reception and limited shopping. Bring what you need.
All things art: need we say more? This indoor-outdoor event has over 100 performances on 12 stages with over 20 different workshops, kids’ activities, films, theatre productions, the 14th International One-Minute Play Festival, literary performances and discounted entry fees for local attractions, such as Barkerville. Better plan on attending a few years in a row, because you won’t have time to experience everything. Wow. Just, wow!
More info: www.artswells.com
Edge of the World Music Festival
Tlell, Aug. 5-7
From $70. Camping from $25 offsite.
Started over 30 years ago in the back of a pick-up truck, this fest provides local and regional performers the opportunity to share the stage with well-known headliners. Enchanting Haida Gwaii has to be visited to be understood and this fest is the highlight of many visitor’s summer holiday to the isles. You’ll also enjoy local and off-island vendors, interactive projects and a lantern parade, making this fest well worth the (ferry) trip.
More info: www.edgefestival.ca
Robson Valley Music Festival
Dunster, Aug. 12-14
From $110. Free camping.
No dogs. Bring your own potable water.
Now in its 12th year, Robson Valley Music Festival is all about music and scenery. How could it not be? It’s held on sensational band Mamaguroove’s property in the superlative Robson Valley and welcomes every type of sound imaginable. Music lovers, this one’s for you, but plan ahead—attendance is limited to the first 1,000 through the gate.
More info: www.rvmf.ca
MoM Festival (formerly Music on the Mountain)
Fort St. James, Aug. 19-21
From $60. Free camping.
Now in its seventh year, this music-and-arts festival features original and independent music and art, plus fantastic food vendors, artisans, visual artists and kids’ workshops. There’s also a celebration of healing and wellness at the new healing sanctuary onsite this year. So head down to the river for some R-and-R, music and fun during the last weeks of summer.
More info: www.momfestival.com
Jasper Folk Music Festival
Jasper, Sept. 9-11
From $100. Camping nearby in Jasper National Park.
This fest is where music and mountains meet. It’s a festival of Rocky Mountain culture, family fun, music, artisans and workshops all held in one of Canada’s fabulous national parks. If you need an excuse to go to the Rockies, here it is—just waiting for you to get your groove on, one last time.
More info: www.jasperfolkmusicfestival.ca