Plenty to enjoy:

🕔May 22, 2008

Coldplay. Death Cab for Cutie. The Flaming Lips. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The list of star performers didn’t stop. I was getting hyped about the Summer 2008 Pemberton Festival. Sun, music, camping and old friends guaranteed good times.
Within minutes of receiving my friend’s email, I decided to go, no matter what. I whipped out my agenda, marked off the dates, July 25-27, and considered taking extra time off work to spend a couple days in Whistler and Vancouver too.
But just as I was about to click send and tell my friend I was in, I decided to double check the calendar. Lo and behold—the Kispiox Valley Music Festival is on the same weekend as the Pemberton bash. My heart sank.
It was a tough decision, but Kispiox won my heart in the end.
‘Sorry,’ I wrote my friend, ‘Count me out.’

A festival to remember
My first experience with the Kispiox Valley Music Festival was in the summer of 2006. From Vancouver, I had lived in Terrace only two months and, though I was unquestionably fond of the place, and northern BC in general, I was still struggling with the small-town blues.
Still, pulling into the festival grounds in my trusty Volkswagen van, seeing the Kispiox River in the background and passing hundreds of smiling campers in our search for a campsite, I couldn’t help feeling at home. That nostalgic feeling of being part of a community stayed with me throughout the festival, right through Sunday night when all the performers and attendees shared in a huge (and free) salmon feast put on by the organizers, marking the end of the festival.
During the final Saturday night performance, usually the climax of the festivities, I remember turning to my good friend, wiggling my hips next to his, and saying, “I think I belong in the north.”
I felt at peace at the Kispiox Valley Music Festival, under the stars amidst an energetic crowd of music lovers, dancing and hooting and hollering at the performers on stage. This is the kind of life I want, I remember thinking. I want to spend my summers dancing barefoot in the dirt, among hundreds of smiling funksters and baby future funksters, rocking out to good music.
Last year was no different. We drove through a hailstorm to reach the festival and merrily wore raingear and gumboots on the first night. And at no point did we consider packing it in. Similar to this year, my friends and I had a silent agreement. We’re not going to miss Kispiox festival for anything.
Each music festival worldwide has its own magic, but northern BC’s festivals have that extra bonus of making one feel like part of an intimate community. The atmosphere is relaxed, enthusiastic, party-happy but family-friendly. Most festivals are also environmentally-conscious, with organizers making keen and obvious efforts to limit waste and separate recyclables. Many are also dependent on volunteers and will exchange a free ticket for a certain amount of work hours. So whether you want to be a part of an organizing team or simply satisfy your musical tastebuds, check out one or more of northern BC’s music festivals, listed here in chronological order.

June 19-22
Tenth Annual Stikine Valley Gospel Music Festival, Dease Lake
This Christian music and worship event is held annually by the owners of Stikine Canyon Ranch at Kilometre 435 on Highway 37. Up to 200 people are expected to camp, play music and give testimonies about what the Lord has done for them. The festival is free and goes all day and night. For more information call 250.771.4301.

June 20-22
25th Annual Midsummer Music Festival, Smithers
A truly family-oriented and community-minded festival, Midsummer has had its share of challenges in the past but has managed to stay in the game. Held at the Bulkley Valley Fall Fairgrounds, the event hosts food and merchandise vendors, a kids’ zone and an always fantastic line-up of northern artists and talented out-of-town headliners. Camping is available this year but spots must be booked and paid for ahead of time. For more information visit

July 4-5
Crabfest, Kincolith (Gingolx)
For having a population of only about 500 people, Kincolith’s Crabfest hosts an impressive array of popular local and non-resident performers including rock, folk and Aboriginal musicians and dancers. At the very end of the Nisga’a Highway, right on the ocean, Kincolith makes for a spectacular location. Local accomodations are limited, so most festival-goers camp. Food is for sale though it’s also wise to bring some of your own. For information visit

July 5-6
Kispiox Gospel Mountain Music Festival, Kispiox
The Kispiox Gospel Mountain Music Festival is a faith-based event held at the Gospel Chapel Grounds in New Hazelton. Activities include musical performances, prayer, children’s games, a silent auction, campfire songs and free breakfasts on both Saturday and Sunday. Festival attendees usually stay in nearby lodges, motels and campsites. Admission is by donation. For more information visit

July 11-13
Atlin Arts & Music Festival, Atlin
This Atlin Festival showcases an exciting medley of Canadian musicians, filmmakers, documentarians, performance artists, comedians, storytellers, visuals artists and poets. The genre of musical performances this year will range from ska, blues, bluegrass and rock to roots and Celtic. Other attractions include kids’ activities, food, craft and art vendors, and workshops. This festival attracts a big crowd for the tiny community of Atlin. Free camping is available directly next to the festival grounds. For more info visit

July 17-20
34th Annual Billy Barker Days, Quesnel
Though Billy Barker Days entails much more than music including parades, fairs, pie-eating contests, barn dances, beauty pageants, mud bogs and more, live entertainment plays non-stop throughout the entire weekend in LeBourdais Park. Headliners perform Friday and Saturday nights. Festival-goers stay at local accommodations including hotels and campgrounds, and most events are free. For more information visit

July 18-19
Music and Friends, Kitamaat Village
This two-day festival aims to encourage music and art, especially among youth. The event, which takes places on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, initially began with the purpose of raising money for an elders’ care facility in Kitamaat Village. Musical performers range from rock to country, folk, jazz, blues and contemporary. Music and Friends drew a crowd of almost 1,800 last year and there’s no sign of the event slowing down. Festival-goers stay at nearby accommodation and campsites. For information visit

July 18-20
8th Annual Cottonwood Music Festival, Fort St. James
This festival features bluegrass, old-time country, classic rock, Celtic, Metis and folk musicians from throughout the province. It takes place in Cottonwood Park on the edge of Stuart Lake. Food vendors and paid camping are available on-site, and tickets can be purchased at the gate. For more info visit

July 25-27
14th Annual Kispiox Valley Music Festival
The Kispiox Valley Music Festival stretches along the banks of the Kispiox River and features food, arts and crafts vendors, workshops, and a variety of musical guests that include country, folk, bluegrass, rock, blues, jazz, roots, reggae and soul. About 2,000 people attend this lively, family-oriented festival each year. Paid onsite camping is available, and tickets are for sale at the gate. For more information visit

August 2-3
Grizzfest, Tumbler Ridge
Always held on the August long weekend—rain, shine or snow—Grizfest is a family-oriented event that hosts musical performances, food and craft vendors, a parade, a horseshoe tournament, face painting and children’s games. A battle of the bands also takes place on the Friday before the festival begins. For information visit or call 250.242.4246.

August 1-4
5th Annual ArtsWells Festival, Wells/Barkerville
This festival features free workshops, kids’ activities and over 50 musical acts ranging from folk, jazz, country, funk and hip-hop to electronic and roots. Other attractions include juggling, spoken word, puppetry, stilt-walking and dance. ArtsWells claims to be BC’s largest and best new indie arts festival. For tickets call 1.800.442.2787 or email For more information (and a beautiful melody!) visit

August 8-10
Edge of the World Music Festival, Tlell
World beat, roots, rock, country, gospel, hip-hop and blues are just some of the types of music that will rock your world at the Edge of the World Music Festival at the Tlell Fairgrounds on the Queen Charlotte Islands. Food, clothing and craft vendors will also be onsite. It might take a little bit longer for Mainlanders to get to this party, but it’s worth it. No camping is available at the fairgrounds but two campsites, including one across the street and another a 10-minute drive away, are nearby. For more information visit or call 637.2312.

Aug 8-10
Terrace Riverside Music Festival, Terrace
After taking some time off, the Terrace Riverside Music Festival is back and now hosted by the Metis. This year’s line-up will include a range of artists performing fiddling and jigging, country, bluegrass and gospel at Har-Lee’s Place, just 14 kilometres north of Terrace. Camping and concessions are available on site. For more info and tickets, call Rene Lucier at 250.635.2357 or email And if you are planning on coming to Terrace for this festival, it’s worth coming a few days earlier to check out the city’s largest celebration of the year, Riverboat Days. This event takes place between Aug. 1 and 10, and hosts a number of activities including musical performances. For more information visit

August 22-24
Robson Valley Music Festival, Dunster
Hosted by recording artists Mamaguroove, this festival features a variety of funky artists from as far away as Australia. A kids’ zone and several food and craft vendors will also be there. Paid camping is available on-site but bring your own drinking water. Tickets are available at various locations around northern BC or call 250.968.4411 to buy one. Attendance is limited to 1,000. For more info visit


The Rollin’ on the River Festival, usually held at the North Pacific Cannery Museum near Prince Rupert, has been postponed until further notice. Organizers are taking a break and looking into new funding opportunities for next year.
Prince George Folk Festival, which features a variety of musical genres, has moved to mid-winter and is now called ColdSnap. Check it out at the beginning of next year.
The Peace Country Bluegrass Festival in Dawson Creek is not happening this year.
Prince George’s BC Rivers Day Festival will be held in the fall this year.

What to bring to the festival

Go all-out when you pack for a music festival. You are there for a good time and a short time, so why limit your luxuries?

Shelter – Volkswagen (and other) vans, with built-in beds, are perfect vehicles for music festivals. If you don’t have one, bring your tent. If you have a truck with a canopy, throw a mattress in the back. Sleeping overnight and waking up to mellow music and sunshine is one of the best parts of a music festival. Instead of one day of magical tunes, you get two (or three).

Sleeping materials – Sleeping bags, sleeping mat (if you’re not on a mattress) and pillows are key. Even if it’s sunny during the day, it usually gets cold at night here in the North, so don’t assume a simple blanket will do. As for the pillow, it takes up space, but you’ll be jealous of your neighbour’s once it is time for beddy-bye.

Liquids – Bring a water jug and lots and lots of water. It’s easy to get dehydrated and a water source is not always nearby. It’s better for the environment to not buy a ton of water bottles either. Juice and coffee after a late night are always winners too.
For all beverages, including alcohol, more and more festivals request that you not bring glass containers.

Food – Even if you plan to buy most of your food from vendors or nearby markets, bring lots of snacks. Nuts, chocolate, dried fruit, cookies, and crackers and cheese are easy to carry. Fruits and veggies are even better for a refreshing treat; you don’t want to leave the festival feeling spiritually uplifted but stuffed from all the bad food you’ve eaten. If you plan to cook for yourself, take cans of soup, pasta and sauce, or ingredients for burritos. You don’t want to spend all your time cooking and miss all the activities.

Reusable dishes – If you’ve got some, bring reusable dishes, cutlery and cups. This cuts down on waste and sometimes, even lets you skip ahead in that long Sunday morning breakfast line-up. A Swiss army knife, corkscrew and can opener are essentials, too.
Entertainment – Sure, there will be hootin’ tootin’ entertainment at any festival—that’s why you’re going. But many festivals, especially if they have on-site camping, have jam sessions and drum circles. Pack your guitar, harmonica, djembe, or even a kazoo. If you are not musically inclined but love being part of the circle, bring maracas or a tambourine. People are usually welcoming, so you could probably even bang sticks together and get away with it. A soccer ball, football, frisbee and hacky-sack are other fun items to pack.

Clothing – When it comes to clothing, the funkier the better. Let loose. A toque, sunglasses, extra socks and underwear, and rain gear are key items for those just-in-case moments.

Other – Something to remember your experience, whether it’s a dancing skirt from a clothing vendor, painting from a local artist or one of the performers’ CDs – is always nice to bring home with you—and cold hard cash is the best way to buy them. Some vendors also offer massages or Reiki sessions, which you might not want to miss. Although Interac and credit cards may be accepted at booths, cash is much quicker and easier for them to handle.
Music festivals are for families, so bring the kids. Lots of the events listed here have special craft and play zones for children, and babies look especially cute jumping up and down, baby-dancing to the music.
Rain, sun or snow—it doesn’t matter. Bring a positive attitude; music festivals are for fun. People are there to unwind. Join them. Forget work. Forget the upcoming Monday. Slow down and go with the flow.