After the one-two punch of the loss of the Squamish Valley Music Festival in 2016, and then the Pemberton Music Festival the following year, there has been an empty space in the heart of the Sea to Sky Corridor where a music festival should be.
After a bit of time to shake it off and take a breath, the area is ready for a new festival, and some local organizers have taken on the task of bringing a locally flavoured festival to life, one that Squamish can call its own.
The first ever Squamish Constellation Festival will run from July 26 to 28, and will feature more intimate locations and locally focused bands and vendors.
“When the Squamish Valley Music Festival left, I know that there was a collective disappointment in the community amongst our music lovers,” says Tamara Stanners, one of the founders of the new festival.
“The former mayor Patricia Heintzman was one of those people who was just really devastated. We loved that festival. She approached me and several other people three years ago and suggested that we need to get a festival back, and she kind of said, ‘Tamara, go forth and do it.’”
So, Stanners did, along with fellow local go-getters and music lovers Kurt Larson, Kirsten Andrews and Katherine Matthews.
The team share among them years of music industry and event planning experience, but more importantly, they’re all local, and share a passion to give Squamish an event that expresses what makes it special.
In contrast to the Squamish Valley festival, the Constellation Festival will not feature camping, a difference which will mean a much more intimate, easy to handle event.
The team is shooting for 7,500 people per day for the first year, compared to approximately 40,000 people per day at the Squamish Valley Music Festival.
“And that just changes everything,” Stanners says.
“What we’ve found is that Squamish has grown as a community so much in the past five years, so many of the spaces that were vacant that had been used for camping sites and parking sites are now condos and warehouses. They just don’t exist anymore. So for us, we don’t think that it will ever again be a camping festival like what Pemberton or the former Squamish festival was.”
They hope to grow the festival to 15,000 people per day in five years. And for now, that’s a fine goal, says Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott.
“This festival will be really anchored in what Squamish is all about, in terms of community, connection and celebrating the arts, so I think it is much more in touch with the values locally than what we’ve experienced before.
“I think that is the right approach. If you live here and you’re creating a big event for your community, I think you want to always be in touch with community expectations, and I think this group has the opportunity to pull that off and be really successful.”
As opposed to the big headlining names at the Squamish Valley festival, Constellation’s aim is to have a cozier feel, with smaller acts and lots of art, culture and food being the focus.
“We’re going to be able to really have nice cocktails and excellent local cider, plus it’s in an open site so everyone can hang out all together and be family-friendly at the same time. It’s going to be really comfortable and really fun,” says Stanners.
Also, the festival will feature “constellation” or “satellite” events as well, that will take place after hours at various venues around town, offering more art and music to keep the festival vibe going.
“We really are trying to include as many local businesses and creators as possible,” Stanners says.
“Squamish has already proven to be this incredible festival location, it just shines in the summertime in so many ways. With the help of the district, we can really create something magical. It seemed time.”