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Littlefest pulls out of festival field, ending six-year run at celebrating 'the freaky mountain culture of the West Kootenay'

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
October 8th, 2011

One of the Slocan Valley’s top cultural draws is ending its run.

Slocan’s Littlefest organizer has decided to call it quits after a six-year run. Organizing a festival is a huge undertaking, said Ron LeBlanc, especially when there are just two organizers: himself and Nala Keane.

“We figure it’s time to release ourselves from such a big commitment in order to allow other things in our work and personal lives to flourish,” he said from his Little Slocan Lodge south of Slocan. “We will remember it fondly and miss it terribly though.”

To keep something like the intimate Littlefest special and sweet and not grow beyond the 500 festival goers it limited itself to, LeBlanc felt it had its time in the sun.

Aside from that, with the future so unpredictable, an overcrowded Kootenay calendar of events, the downturn in the economy affecting people’s disposable income and a small community, there was an underlying reality affecting most local festivals that supported the conclusion to cancel future events.

For the duration of its run, Littlefest had a life of its own.

“There were crazy moments and sweet times,” said LeBlanc. “For us it was always larger than life, beyond expectations. There are just so many wonderful, and some pretty funny, memories.”

And it ended on a high point. A lot of feedback LeBlanc and Keane received was that this was the best year of the six-year run.

At the outset LeBlanc and Keane wanted to encourage the revival of mountain music traditions through contemporary interpretation.

“Helping people identify with, and celebrate, the freaky mountain culture of the West Kootenays at a time when we felt it threatened by subtle gentrification was satisfying,” he said.

“We also wanted to offer a format for live music when most events featured DJs. The festival evolved over the years to include a more diverse and eclectic range of roots and indie music.”

Littlefest gave people a chance to let loose with their Kootenay friends and neighbors in an intimate, kid-friendly setting while providing them with a high standard of entertainment.

Although LeBlanc would not rule out the permanent death of Littlefest, he said it might return one day as a reinvented festival.

“More likely though, we might channel some of that energy into a different form at Little Slocan Lodge,” he said.

Stay tuned.

Unity Fest carries on the festival banner

There was never an intention for Unity Festival to replace Littlefest.

The festival organizer for the late August show in Winlaw said she had meant to compliment, not replace, the Slocan Valley’s long-running festival at Little Slocan Lodge, Littlefest.

“I never thought Littlefest wasn’t continuing until I saw it on Facebook a few weeks ago,” she said. “We never wanted to compete with it so we placed Unity Fest far enough away.”

Although it will be a great cultural loss for the Valley if Littlefest does not return, Berger admitted, the Winlaw festival likely will be back, based on around 900 in attendance for the two-day event at Sleep is for Sissies.

That, and with the moon in Leo for the weekend (Aug. 26-27), people responded. Berger said she consulted the astrological charts to see what would be an appropriate weekend to hold one.

“The weekends before and after that date weren’t good but the weekend we chose … the moon was in Leo, so yes, that was a great time for people to gather,” she said.

Festival producer Felicity Gerwing also made it possible. Combining her organizational talents with the palatable menu of world music — with a focus on hip hop and reggae — and social media meant the festival found a niche.

Unity had posters going all over the West Kootenay, to Vancouver, Grand Forks, Okanagan and over to the Shuswap, and blitzed Facebook.

“I asked a lot of people how they had found out about the festival and it was through Facebook that really helped spread the word,” Berger said.

To help keep the festival going, a non-profit group was created called the Slocan Valley Cultural Alliance. To keep the festival going, they will be putting on other arts and music events in the area.

With eight founding members now they will undertake a membership drive to add more people to the Alliance. Year memberships cost $10. Contact Chris Berger at 226-7902 for more information.

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