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New festival commits to Merritt

The Bass Coast Music and Art Festival was formerly hosted in Squamish, but it is now looking to make the Nicola Valley its permanent home. ~submitted photoBy Phillip Woolgar - Merritt Herald
Published: February 20, 2013 4:00 PM
Updated: February 20, 2013 4:43 PM

An electronic party of instruments and art is the followup act to the defunct Merritt Mountain Music Festival.

From Aug. 2 to 5, the Bass Coast Music and Art Festival is set to feature a spectacle of events at the grounds just outside the city.

Bass Coast Project Ltd. is the brainchild of Andrea Graham and Liz Thomson, who have for the last five years generated a following for their dance troupes, electronic music, fashion shows, artisan markets, music video exposés and laughter workshops.

“We are interested in showcasing any type of art you can think of,” Thomson said, adding that the former Mountainfest grounds is the ideal spot for a festival.

Unlike much of the drunken debauchery based out of the infamous Campground C that many people have said turned the Mountainfest into a wasteful cesspool, the Bass Coast festival attracts a more mature crowd, Thomson said.

“We have found that by not having alcohol there, we have attracted more responsible people,” she said, noting the average age range for the festival is between 25 and 40 with many arriving from Metro Vancouver. In fact, 37.5 per cent who have turned out for the festivals are from Vancouver, with others arriving from as far away as Egypt and Germany.

Previous Bass festivals, which were hosted in Squamish, attracted 500 in the festival’s first year in 2009. Attendance has steadily grown to nearly 3,000 last year, when an estimated $400,000 was pumped into the local economy. The organizers said they expect around 3,000 this year and 4,500 in 2014. At Mountainfest’s peak in 2005, it attracted a reported 148,000.

“We are small in comparison to [Mountainfest],” Thomson said. “We don’t plan to be large.”

The event will feature four days of entertainment.

“People camp out, and there are big and small art installations and everyone really has an amazing time,” Graham said.

She said Merritt could be a permanent site for the event because of the area’s “beauty” and “accessibility.”

Bass is also offering two grants to Merritt artists, combining for $500 and passes to the festival. The company encourages local artists and volunteers to participate.

The City of Merritt is acting as a facilitator for the event to connect organizers with fire safety, RCMP, and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District. Bass presented plans to councillors and administration last Tuesday.

“I think this will diversify the types of events we have for Merritt,” Economic Development Manager James Umpherson said, adding that this type of festival could attract similar events to the city. “It enhances our image beyond just the [Country Music Capital of Canada]. It brings in a different type of artist and cultural group that we usually aren’t accustomed to, and it will bring out more of that kind of arts and culture that exists in the City of Merritt.”

The economic spinoffs will add fuel to Merritt’s economy, he added.

Bass Coast is based out of Squamish and is now a player in the BC Electronic Music and Arts Festival scene.

Liquor isn’t available on the premises and the festival is for people 19 years and older.

Early bird tickets, which went on sale yesterday (Wednesday), cost between $100 and $150. General admission is $220, and those tickets went on sale this morning. Locals will likely receive a discount, the organizers told council.

Visit basscoast.ca to buy tickets, for more information or to apply for a grant.