Peeling Back the Layers at Shambhala

Selkirk College Joins Community Tour of Festival Site


Members of the Selkirk College team joined a weekend tour of the Shambhala Music Festival to get a peek at the annual event that attracts thousands to the Salmo River Ranch every August.

As part of the festival’s outreach in the region, organizers invited community leaders to visit the site that attracts 11,000 electronic dance music lovers to a four-day celebration. Selkirk Registrar Cathy Mercer, Nelson Dean of Instruction Kate Pelletier, Marketing Manager Maggie Keczan and Communications Coordinator Bob Hall joined the likes of Nelson’s police chief, local politicians, media, arts & culture representatives and 20 other community leaders for the Saturday afternoon tour.

Shambhala - Team

Joining the tour of the Shambhala Music Festival site were (L-R) Selkirk Registrar Cathy Mercer, Nelson Dean of Instruction Kate Pelletier and Marketing Manager Maggie Keczan.

“It was a fantastic tour,” said Pelletier. “I was very impressed with the professionalism of all the staff and the level of organization required to pull off an event of that size.”

An Impressive Infrastructure

Starting at the main gates where the security team checks vehicles coming into site that allows no alcohol, tour participants were taken on a three hour walk that included visits behind the scenes and into the main festival site. Decked out in a colourful outfit, tour guide Ricardo Hubbs provided insight into what it takes to pull off the largest music festival in the region.

“I appreciated the opportunity to get a behind the scenes perspective,” said Mercer. “From the local and sustainable efforts to harm reduction programs, it was evident that there is a good business model in place and that the organizers are fully committed to what it will take to have ongoing success.”

Shambhala - Ricardo

Ricardo Hubbs (left) acted as the tour guide for the afternoon with a team of Shambassadors helping keep the group together at the bustling festival site.

With an army of volunteers and more than 400 paid staff, the festival site becomes the second largest city in the West Kootenay during the four days in August.

“A number of Selkirk students are employed or volunteer at the festival each year and are able to experience what it takes to bring over 11,000 guests plus performers, volunteers and workers to a ranch in the West Kootenays for a week,” said Mercer. “It’s an invaluable learning experience!”

An Eye-Opening Experince

As the group wove its way through all the colourful characters and thumping bass that’s a constant day and night at Shambhala, the Selkirk team was taking notes.

“I was extremely impressed by the operations behind the festival,” said Keczan. “I especially enjoyed the passion and dedication of all of the Shambasaddors and our ‘Imagineer’ tour leader Ricardo. We hope to leverage some of the storytelling and personality that the tour and ambassador system brought to the festival with the launch of our new Castlegar Campus Welcome Centre and ongoing focus on student engagement.”

Shambhala - First Aid

Festival organizers have their bases covered on so many levels, including a temporary first aid facility that is fully staffed with medical professionals.

Kootenay Studio Arts Sets Up at Festival

Earlier this summer Selkirk reached out to festival organizers in an effort to promote programming at Kootenay Studio Arts (KSA). The festival provided KSA a location on site to set up a portable outdoor studio that included Metal Casting, Blacksmithing and Textiles demonstrations. Over the weekend, instructors and alumni got to work on showing festival goers what goes on at KSA’s Victoria Street Campus.

Shambhala - KSA

The Kootenay Studio Arts team that provided demonstrations for festival goers throughout the four day event.

“The portable forge and portable loom seemed to get a lot of attention,” said Pelletier. “It was very generous of the Shambhala folks to allow us to bring them to the festival. We were able to engage with many of the festival goers and may have found some new students.”

Though the festival is not without its challenges, organizers didn’t shy away from the more controversial elements of the event and provided thoughtful insight on how they tackle the inevitable flaws in human nature.

“Since it started 17 years ago, the festival has created a bit of a wedge in communities like Nelson,” said Hall. “It’s certainly not perfect, but there’s no way you can take this tour and not be impressed by the amount of effort and thoughtful preparation that goes into dealing with all the issues that may or may not arise. It’s hard to imagine summer in the Kootenays without Shambhala.”

Tours Offered Every Year

The Selkirk crew left just before sunset impressed with what they had witnessed.

Shambhala - Stage

Even in the afternoon the scene was alive with music, dance and celebration.

“Being a newbie to the Kootenays, Shambhala really paints a picture of the culture and beauty of the region that makes us so unique,” said Keczan. “This is a truly captivating place which inspires learning and self-development and it is a great benefit to the college to market Selkirk to other areas of the country with this lens.

“I liked it so much I bought a ticket for Sunday.”

Shambhala Music Festival organizers have been hosting the tours for several years and will likely do so for the 2015 event. If you would like to be part next year’s tour, jot down in your calendar to contact Bob Hall next July to be added to the list.


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