First Squamish Constellation Festival attracts mostly locals, says organizer 

Plans to make a profit next year

click to enlarge A Tribe Called Red on stage at Constellation Festival in Squamish on July 27. Photo: KEILI BARTLETT/THE SQUAMISH CHIEF
  • A Tribe Called Red on stage at Constellation Festival in Squamish on July 27. Photo: KEILI BARTLETT/THE SQUAMISH CHIEF

With a picturesque background featuring 360-degree mountain views and the Stawamus Chief poised behind one of the two stages—not to mention the musical acts—Squamish's first three-day Squamish Constellation Festival drew a total of nearly 20,000 people.

Days after the last notes played by headliner the Bahamas rang out, festival co-founder Tamara Stanners told The Chief that organizers are still riding the high of a successful festival.

There was a paid-ticket holding audience of around 4,000 on both Saturday and Sunday with slightly less on Friday night. That didn't include the 500 volunteers, staff and performers on the festival grounds or the contest winners and children. Entrance for kids 12 and under was free, boosting daily audience numbers.

Stanners said 85 per cent of the people who bought tickets were from Squamish, higher than organizers expected.

"While we were building the festival, we knew that the locals would support it, but I think we [thought] it would be about 50 per cent local and 50 per cent from out of town. But the fact that we have such an incredibly supportive local base of music lovers is such an incredible thing to grow with," she said.

When asked if the inaugural festival was able to break even or make a profit, Stanners said no—but organizers have a five-year plan, and hadn't expected to make money with the first Constellation Festival.

"The plan was always to continue to work with partnerships, with sponsors and investors to have the finances to move forward, because we know in subsequent years that that will change," she said. "The first years are always the hardest and that's where the biggest expenses are."

Each night, once the mics were turned off and everyone left Hendrickson Field, Stanners said there was no waste left on the grounds. Zero waste tents were posted around the venue, where volunteers helped festivalgoers sort their waste in containers for garbage, compost or recyclables. Stanners said GFL worked in partnership with the initiative, adding almost nothing went to the landfill.

Next year, the organizers plan on having reusable cups available. The dishwasher for the cups was broken this year.

As for the performances, Stanners said there was a loving—and somewhat political—atmosphere.

When A Tribe Called Red began their performance on Saturday night, the musicians said a member of their entourage had been removed from the festival by the RCMP, an action they called racial profiling.

"It was really tense and uncomfortable, because RCMP had worked with us forever, as they do in any large event," Stanners said. She couldn't go into details, but said one of the people accompanying the band apparently has a criminal past.

"The RCMP felt it was dangerous not only to him but to other festivalgoers to have him there. They removed him from the festival, and it was scary," Stanners said, adding she was nervous because they didn't know exactly what was happening, but wanted to keep everyone safe.

Squamish RCMP confirmed that someone was removed from the festival.

The late Saturday lineup was notably political, with Toronto-based rapper Shad's performance before A Tribe Called Red. Then, Jessie Reyez closed the night with a set interspersed with advice and talking points about the #MeToo movement in the music industry.

"I feel like it's really important that artists are allowed to speak openly what their views are," Stanners said. "Each of those artists has such an incredibly different point of view ... The lineup really reflected the diversity of Canada, and I felt Saturday night was particularly perfect for that. We've had a lot of growing pains as a country and to have each of those artists come up and be able to speak to it ... I felt like it was really empowering and uncomfortable at times. I think that we all need that in order to grow."

So what's next? Stanners confirmed Constellation Festival will be returning to Squamish next summer, and organizers are already working on helping the music play on.

This story originally appeared in The Squamish Chief. To see that version click here.

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