Emery gets an inside view of a hula hoop high-rise during the Dream Dance Circus workshop in the kids area at last year’s Robson Valley Music Festival. /FILE PHOTO

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

Preparations for the annual Robson Valley Music Festival are well underway, with a new feature: for the first time in its 17-year history, festival goers will be able to pay for their tickets in two installments.

Festival organizers made the change to ease the financial burden on people paying for a large group to attend, such as parents of multiple kids, Artistic Director and Executive Producer Shara Gustafson told The Goat. Additionally, the final day of the festival is always free for seniors. Weekend tickets for adults cost $175, but attendees can choose to make a donation to the festival and receive a ticket for just the last day, she added.

The kid-friendly, three-day festival, held in Dunster, usually draws a crowd of about 600 to 800 people, Gustafson said. That sort of engagement is not only a boon for the local economy as visitors purchase food, accommodations, and souvenirs from Robson Valley businesses: it also brings a sense of community and exposure to a wide array of artists to the area, according to Gustafson.

“We’re basically bringing the world to our little tiny festival here,” Gustafson said. “We bring in acts that are award-winning. We bring in acts that nobody’s heard of that blow people’s minds.”

Gustafson added that the festival includes artists from a diverse range of backgrounds.

“We always have Indigenous acts, we always have global acts, we have LGBTQ2SIA acts,” she said. “We’re pretty diverse that way and it’s culturally rich […] We have that feel of bigger festivals with higher engaging musicians and artists from all over, but on a smaller, more intimate level.”

While ticket sales cover most of the event costs, grant funding is also crucial to pay for artist fees, infrastructure, and other costs, Gustafson said. The festival gets funding from a variety of agencies, such as the Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council.

The British Columbia Arts Council did not respond to the Goat’s interview request.

In an email to the Goat, Director of the Canada Council for the Arts’ Granting Program Division Maude Laflamme said the Robson Valley Music Festival is one of about 2,000 communities where a cultural initiative has received Council funding.

“A priority of our current strategic plan, ‘Art, Now More Than Ever,’ includes increasing equitable access to project funding for artists, arts groups, and organizations in all regions of the country,” Laflamme said. 

The plan, adopted in 2021, includes the goal of investing $1.6B in grants by 2026, along with $100M for Indigenous arts and culture.

According to Laflamme, the Canada Council for the Arts awarded grants to over 4,700 artists, 500 groups, and 2,180 arts organizations during the 2022-23 fiscal year. The Council funds a wide range of initiatives that allow the public to enjoy and appreciate art, she said.

Laflamme encourages interested applicants to visit “Guide to Getting a Grant” page on the Council’s website.

“We support a wide range of festivals and arts events across Canada – in rural areas, small towns, suburbs and large urban centres.  Council support not only benefits artists, but also provides positive economic and social benefits for communities,” Laflamme said. “We recognize that supporting initiatives and events in rural communities not only builds local audiences, but can also anchor tourism in the region.”