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Music and Mountains, Beaches and Bards: It’s Festival Season in British Columbia

Monday, May 04, 2015


Photo via Carla Mont (image cropped)

As spring turns to summer, Canada's westernmost province proves an ideal backdrop for celebration — be it adventure, musical interludes, drama, food for thought, and even consumption. Here follows a cross-section of some of BC's favourite fests, great and small.

For over 25 years the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival has been weaving tales of mischief and magic, drama and intrigue — an annual tradition set to hit the outdoor stages June 4 at Vancouver's Vanier Park. This season, A Comedy of Errors, King Lear, Love's Labour's Lost and Shakespeare's Rebel will command repeat performances, at least until the curtain closes on this classic festival, September 26. bardonthebeach.org 

The world's best artists will draw thousands of locals and visitors to the city's theatres, parks, bars and outdoor plazas, June 18 - July 1, during the 30th anniversary edition of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. A mashup of wildly varied styles, including funk, fusion, blues, electronic and, of course, jazz of all stripes, this annual gathering promises hundreds of free and ticketed performances by nearly 2,000 musicians, including Erykah Badu, Chris Botti, The Roots, Pink Martini, and Tower of Power. coastaljazz.ca

For those who love to rope and ride, BC's cowboy country sets the scene during the Williams Lake Stampede. Marking its 89th season June 26 - 29, the stampede promises an action-packed program that features a host of western heritage events, including the heart-thumping mountain race and white-knuckle bull-riding competitions. Rodeo clowns included. williamslakestampede.com

Parksville, with its long, picturesque beaches on Vancouver Island's eastern shore, is sand castle territory. And for those who are serious about the build (a.k.a. the best in the world), the Quality Foods Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition & Exhibition is a worthy challenge, not to mention a qualifying event for the World Championship of Sand Sculpting. Competitors will shape their creations July 10 – 12, and their fine-grained works of art will be on display until August 16. parksvillebeachfest.ca

On the mainland, in the province's Kootenay Rockies, the high-energy Starbelly Jam outdoor music fest will rock Crawford Bay, July 17 – 19. This 16th annual celebration is set to showcase an eclectic lineup of funk, world music, rock, hip-hop, reggae, blues, bluegrass, folk artists (and more), including Mother Mother, Ozomatli, Oliver Swain's BIG MACHINE, Shred Kelly, and Abstract Rude with DJ Rippel. Free workshops, children's entertainment, a craft fair, roaming jugglers and more will round out Starbelly's three days of mountain music. starbellyjam.org

Further west, musical interludes will strike a chord at the Bella Coola Music Festival, July 18 - 19. Rock and roots, folk and blues — it's all here, set within natural wilderness on the western end of Highway 20. Headliners like Barney Bentall, Miss Quincy, C.R. Avery, and Fred Penner (for the kiddies) ensure this musical fest is worth the journey to BC's coastal shores. bellacoolamusic.org

Yogis will unite for Wanderlust Whistler, a five-day festival that celebrates mindful living, July 30 – August 3. While this four-season mountain village is a haven for high-octane adventure, it also proves a natural setting for wellness, with meditation and yoga (including practice on stand-up paddleboards), hikes, biking, spirited musical performances, thought-provoking speakeasy lectures and a Kula Market bursting with keepsakes. wanderlust.com/events

Festive fireworks and seaside views draw annual crowds to the province's capital during the Victoria Symphony Splash — and 2015 promises to be no different. More than 40,000 people will take in the classical sounds August 2 in Victoria's Inner Harbour, a bustling hub that will be transformed into an outdoor concert hall, complete with a floating stage. A highlight: the Victoria Symphony orchestra's performance of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, capped off with brasses, bells and cannon fire. victoriasymphony.ca/splash

Music lovers are sure to sway to the sounds of Sweatshop Union, feel the steady beat of Isobel Trigger and get funky with the roots, rock and reggae sounds of The House of David Gang in the remote Northern BC setting of Haida Gwaii, August 7 – 9. Blessed with equal parts energy and chill, The Edge of the World Music Festivalmelds musical styles and performances, backed by Tlell's breathtaking natural beauty. edgefestival.com

There's much more to Silver Star Mountain Resort than skis and boots; indeed, the Mountain Top Food & Wine Festival in BC's Okanagan showcases the alpine resort's cultured side during a three-day, toast-worthy celebration of local wines. Set for August 7 – 9, the fest features Wine Masters' Dinners, wine and food seminars, art gallery viewings and guided alpine flower hikes alongside the event highlight, The Mile High Wine Tasting. skisilverstar.com  

For high-flying fun, adrenalin-seekers are sure to take it up a notch at the Crankworx Whistler Freeride Mountain Bike Festival, August 7 – 16. This festival, set at Whistler Bike Park, promises an opportunity to shred the trails during freeride competitions, pick up the pace during gravity-fuelled races or simply watch, and revel, in the action. The little ones won't be left out, either, thanks to specially crafted obstacle courses at Familyworx in the village and a custom pump track, complete with cheering fans, at Whistler Olympic Plaza's Kidsworx. whistler.com/events/crankworx

Noted as the country's longest-running summer gathering of Canadian writers (and readers from around the world), the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts promises plenty of drama — on the page, at least. Yearly lineups feature established names alongside burgeoning new talent, and this year's August 13 - 16 event offers no less with featured scribes that include Ann-Marie MacDonald, Jane Urquhart and Caroline Adderson alongside new voices Doretta Lau and Aaron Shepard. writersfestival.ca

Garlic lovers will rejoice …or gather, at least, during the Hills Garlic Festival, held annually in the Kootenay Rockies village of New Denver. Considered one of the top 10 garlic festivals in the world, this one-day ode to the mighty bulb, set for September 13, tempts with live entertainment, crafts, soaps, jewelry, local produce and — you guessed it — plenty of garlic. hillsgarlicfest.ca

For more on BC's boisterous festival scene, visit HelloBC.com/events.


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