A changing of the guard is taking place within the Bulkley Valley Folk Music Society (BVFMS) and the next wave of volunteers are excited about the future of its flagship event: the annual Smithers Midsummer Music Festival.
Every year in Smithers, long summer days set the scene for a three- day music and camping festival in July.
Hundreds of people lounge on the grass at the Smithers Fairgrounds while a lineup of local and regional musical acts and big-name headliners perform throughout the weekend.
It’s a big event for Smithers, attracting visitors from across the region and beyond, but it is the local community that ensures the festival machine stays well-oiled.
Behind the scenes is a dedicated team of long-standing and hard-working volunteers, some of whom have been with the festival since it started more than 30 years ago.
With this year’s lineup set for release within the week, long-term volunteers and new faces charged with carrying the event into the future spoke to The Interior News.
Among them is BVFMS vice-president Karen Diemert, who started volunteering in 1985 after she attended the first ever festival in 1984.
“I attended the festival and was there the whole time and just thought it was fabulous,” said Diemert.
“I decided I was just going to sign up and help make this thing happen because it was a really good thing to do.”
As the hospitality co-ordinator she now runs a kitchen and dining area which provides food and drinks for about 400 performers and volunteers.
Festival days are long, starting when the coffee boils at 6:30 a.m. and continuing until the kitchen is clean at 9:30 p.m.
But Diemert said for her and about 20 volunteers who work with her in hospitality, it was a rewarding experience to see the festival come together.
“You learn lots of life skills and people management things and it’s helping others also better themselves within the music realm because we provide so much for them,” she said.
“And then there’s the whole feel of community that you have when you are a volunteer because you become part of a production that is happening.”
For Diemert, helping to provide a venue for local and regional musicians to perform is one of the biggest rewards.
Greg Vinnish, who also signed up to volunteer after his first experience at the festival, was enamoured by its holiday atmosphere.
“Everyone’s just got a big smile on their face,” he said.
“It’s kind of like a weekend away from town, for me.”
“It’s like you are getting out and you are doing something different.”
After just two years as a volunteer, Vinnish has put his hand up to take over for co-ordinator and long-standing volunteer Norma Stokes.
This year he is shadowing Stokes to learn the ropes before taking over in 2016, when he will share the role with another volunteer.
As part of the “next generation” of new volunteers, Vinnish said he was excited about playing a role in the festival’s future.
“We have some new co-ordinators who would be in that next generation category,” he said.
“It’s pretty exciting seeing that people want to get involved because the folks that started the festival, they were our age when it started to be a thing and now they are in their 50s and 60s.”
“It’s time for them to pass down the torch and it is an exciting experience.”
One of his ambitions for the festival is to secure grants to bring bigger-name headliners to the festival.
In the meantime, he is focused on tapping into the wealth of knowledge gathered by more experienced volunteers who have made the festival what it is today.
“It’s a pretty huge responsibility and I don’t know if I was … ready for it but now that I’m in it and I’m doing it, it feels more right as time goes on,” he said.
Organizers expect to release the new lineup on their website www.smithersmusicfest.com within a week.