Squamish is known as a nature-lover’s dream, a mountain biking mecca and a climber’s paradise – but sailors, kiteboarders and windsurfers know Squamish is also famous for its wind and water. People come from all over the world to dive in and ride the ample winds of Howe Sound. And for four days in July, the entire community comes together to celebrate not only Squamish’s connection to the ocean currents and sea breezes, but also local art, music and imagination.
The third annual Squamish Wind Festival runs July, 21, 22, 23 and 24, and this year’s incarnation has a particular slant towards local performers, according to Michelle Neilson, chair of the Squamish Arts Council.
“This year our focus is on featuring local talent,” she said. “Over 50 per cent of the music lineup is local. The other 50 per cent is from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. People will get front-row seats to up and coming bands like Flowshine, Majik Spells, Disco Funeral, plus we booked a Vancouver band called Tanga – their Latin beats will get everyone up dancing!”
It’s all part of a push to have more acts for festival-goers to see, according to Neilson.
“We are expanding the music and entertainment in the park on Saturday,” she said. “We will be starting at noon instead of 5 p.m. The idea is to have more entertainment during the Farmers’ Market hours.”
The artistic side of the fest is getting a boost as well.
“We are also doing a pilot test Summer Art Gallery in the Arts Council building. The title of the show is ‘Making Waves,’” she said. “It is a joint venture with the Arts Council and Visuals and will be inclusive to the whole community.
“The last two years, we just ran the art exhibition in the arts council building for the three days of the festival and then the show went on tour to Whistler. This year, we want the show to run the entire summer as a pilot test community gallery for Squamish.”
In addition to all the scheduled bands and art installations, the Squamish Wind Festival offers food vendors galore, a beer garden, musical theatre, roaming buskers, and, of course, the Squamish Yacht Club’s annual regatta, SOAR, as well as kite flying and sports demos. Neilson said it is truly a community effort to get the festival off the ground every year.
“The model for the festival is to leverage the resources and volunteer teams in the community, so each unit is working on their part of the festival,” she said. “The yacht club focuses on the sailing regatta. Visuals Society takes the lead on the Art Show. We have a volunteer that is the liaison with Squamish Nation and the wind sport community. We have someone that spearheads the stage management and then the core team just focuses on marketing and logistics.
“Tourism Squamish is also helping us with marketing this year. We hope to expand our marketing reach to the Lower Mainland and Sea to Sky Corridor. Our goal is that attractions like the Britannia Mine Museum and the Sea to Sky Gondola direct their traffic to us after their tours. We can leverage the tourism market that is already coming here and direct them to our downtown core. It takes a village! Collaborating like this really helps the festival be more sustainable. It would be too much for the Arts Council festival committee to do on their own.”
Neilson said the event was also a great way for new members of the community to get to know Squamish better.
“First and foremost, this is a free event, which makes it inclusive to everyone. I like to call it a ‘locals’ party.’ Our town is growing so rapidly and with so many new faces, this festival is a great way for the community to come together, for new neighbours to integrate with the community more,” she said. “And, well, there is nothing better than sipping a cold beer and watching live music in a park in a family-friendly environment.”
The event kicks off on July 21 with a movie in O'Siyam Pavilion Park. That is followed by two nights of free music. On Sunday, July 24, the Squamish Nation canoe team will be offering free rides out of the park beside the Mamquam Channel across from the O'Siyam Pavilion. The trips will run from 9:30 a.m. until noon. At the same time youth from the Squamish sailing program will be on hand talking about sailing and demostrating it on the water, while Andrew Lambrecht of Lambrecht surfboards crafts a wooden surfboard.
At 12:30 p.m. Newport Beach (formerly known as Nexen Beach) will be full of action starting with an hour-long kiteboarding show put on by Kite Clash's Steve Tulk. Instructors from Aerial Kiteboarding will also be on hand to let people try out trainer kites.
For more on the Squamish Wind Festival, go to www.squamishwindfestival.com.