It’s August. The aroma of freshly roasted garlic is in the air. Laughter and music entice you through the entrance. A trail of children in colourful costumes weaves over the field, and everywhere you look is a happy, friendly face. You have that wild and fantastic feeling you get when you enter a festival.
Joel the illusionist wanders through the crowd, stops, performs some magic, and moves on to another group of people. Salt Spring’s very own tsunami circus performs breath-taking aerials. Children gasp as a man rapidly twists balloons into a mermaid and draws on a face.
You’re taking it all in when you notice that your taste buds are squabbling. Should you eat Chinese, Greek, or Indian food―or the buttery crunch of the Rotary Club’s corn on the cob? And those aren’t your only choices!
You see your parents at the intimate venue of the Arvid Stage. Someone is standing on a box that reads “Soapbox.” She explains her solution to the problem she just ranted about―while everyone listens and laughs in all the right places.
The main stage is hopping. Much of it is backstage action, or unseen “hive” activity. Busy bees keep the performers fed at Arlo’s Restaurant, and other musicians lounge on the comfy cushions of the green room.
The sound quality is crisp and lush, and dancers are cutting loose. Young people, old people―every kind imaginable―groove to The Odds who harmonize their voices between assaultive riffs. You feel the freedom, the sense of community, the appreciation of diversity. You know this is rare.
You imbibe the warm, relaxed vibe and move on. Dan Jason from Salt Spring Seeds shares advice about how to grow garlic. Sue Earle from Duck Creek Farm beautifully presents her garlic for sale.
You hear familiar laughter from the beer garden, but you make a beeline for Al’s Falafel. You wave at Neale Smith, the festival’s founder, who is giving out samples of sweet roasted garlic. The vendors of hand-blown glass, lavender, handmade leather goods nearly distract you, but you finally place your lunch order and receive a huge smile as your appy. Even the vendors are upbeat!
You came for the great line-up of performers―from Petunia and The Vipers’ gypsy-flavoured ragtime to the Tzinquaw Dancers traditional Coast Salish dancing to Jon and Roy’s feel-good anti-folk tunes. But now you see the entire festival is a feast for the senses, a community treasure for everyone, including the musicians. Valdy, likened to a West Coast Gordon Lightfoot, joined the Hometown Band for their 40th reunion.
The Salt Spring Music and Garlic Festival is summertime’s only all-weekend family festival. Islanders were thrilled to save money on ferry passes and expensive tickets for off-island festivals. They loved the music coming to them for a change! One festival coordinator said, “It wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t an event. It was a happening! And it was beautiful.”
The Music and Garlic Festival isn’t merely festival for festival’s sake. It’s also a mission-driven nonprofit with a goal of supporting local performers, farm aid, and farming education. Farm aid is a concept that values working family-run farms, communities, and healthy food grown in a way that respects biodiversity, soil, water, and the people who make it happen.
Can you relate to those values?
This year’s festival drew larger crowds than the previous year’s―3500! Word is getting out about the sweet ambience. Free parking made the event more accessible, and the shuttle service brought people from the ferry and town.
Do you want to see more people experiencing an authentic Salt Spring vibe?
The potential of the event is becoming more apparent! Organizers envision continuing to bring local performers and farmers together for a synergistic experience for everyone to enjoy. Organizers continue to listen to feedback and adapt to produce the best summer festival possible.
Would you like to see the festival evolve and meet its potential for supporting local performers and farmers?
If you answered “yes” to these three questions―for the love of community, farming, and music―would you be willing to become a Friend of the Garlic Festival by contributing to next year’s operating costs? Something like this festival doesn’t happen without sponsorship: $10, $20, $100, $500 or more? And as one musician said, “This was the best festival I’ve been to all year and in a long time.”
The Salt Spring Island Music and Garlic Festival will gratefully accept your funding support or ideas to continue bringing you a superb summer festival! The “Keep the Glow Going” fund is at Island Savings, account #2406304. Thank you from the bottom of our garlic bulbs!
All photos courtesy of Rick Neufeld.