Monday, September 10, 2012

Save Chilliwack Bluegrass

Twenty-five years ago, the Chilliwack Arts Council had the dream of producing a bluegrass festival that would neither rely on public sector funding nor alcohol sales. To that end, the Council has been every successful.

The festival's humble beginnings started at the Atchelitz Threshermen's Association, a facility with an outdoor hay wagon stage used for its antique ambiance and hospitality. Local and regional bands were presented to a small but appreciative audience and as the numbers grew, so did their knowledge of the music form. A demand for a higher caliber of entertainment followed, challenging the Council to find creative means of bring in such entertainment. Thus, the Snohomish Bluegrass Orchestra was formed in an attempt to circumvent high tariffs on American bands. This story of sheer creativity made headlines in the Globe and Mail in Canada and the Wall Street Journal in the US.

The year 2000 was a monumental year for the festival and its supporters as the City of Chilliwack decided to develop the site that the festival had been using since its inception. The development became known as Chilliwack Heritage Park and the Council struggled with the decision to either move the festival indoors or look for another venue. Hardcore festival goers liked the outdoor ambiance but weather related risks of producing an outdoor event in Chilliwack on Labour Day was always a concern. The concerns were put to rest after the first evening concert when the audience stayed to the bitter end, enjoying as they had never before, shelter from the elements and sound quality that would rival any concert hall.

Today, the Chilliwack Bluegrass Festival is an internationally recognized event that draws visitors from across North America and around the world. Our festival would not have been so successful were it not for the strong support from sponsors, fans and volunteers, many of whom have been with the festival for the past twenty-five years. Thank you! (from the back cover of the festival's brochure)

This year, I learnt that circumstances beyond the organizers' control were making it financially unfeasible for the festival to continue. 

This deeply saddened me. I can think of many reasons why this festival deserves to be saved. Here are but a few--off the top of my head...

The festival ...
(This audience member happily knits along with the music.)

-is an affordable, family-friendly event

(My husband and me spent over $200 dollars at a mall in Chilliwack. We bought--among other things--these snappy new sandals.)

-is economically beneficial for the city of Chilliwack

(The Dyck family is scattered across BC. This festival gives us an opportunity to gather.)

-encourages and celebrates the development of amateur and professional musical ability

(A campground neighbour gave us these beautiful flowers because he won't be able to take them back over the line.)

-generates positive cross-boarder community building

For these reasons and more, the festival deserves to be saved. So let's get behind the festival, email the Chilliwack Art Council--tell them how important the festival is and that we want it to continue.
Candlewick Press is celebrating International Dot Day on September 15th!
Next post:  Hmmm???


TK Anthony + said...

I hope Chilliwack doesn't lose such a great event. Bluegrass festivals must be of, by, and for the people!

Author Leanne Dyck said...

My feelings exactly.

Laurie Buchanan said...

I add my voice of support as well. It sounds like an incredibly positive event!