After a one-year hiatus Arts on the Fly is back and its two artistic directors say they are honoured by how many people have said the festival was sorely missed in 2016.
“The community missed us so it felt really good to know that,” said co-artistic director Marin Patenaude. “I think when you have something that happens every year and people get used to it and kind of take it for granted a little bit and then when it’s not there, there’s this gap in arts and community and culture in the Cariboo.”
Patenaude said the festival has also received strong sponsorship this year.
“Everyone is really excited about it which is what we like,” she added.
The two-day festival starts Friday, July 14 at 6:30 p.m. and ends late Saturday, July 15 in Horsefly with a lineup that is the strongest the festival has ever had, co-artistic director Brandon Hoffman said.
“We were looking around to find some big name acts that would sell a lot of tickets and we just couldn’t find anyone that we all agreed on that would be both really accessible and well-known and give us a cost-benefit if we were paying an artist fee on one big name versus five really awesome lesser-known acts,” he said.
In the end they decided to get the “absolutely most powerhouse lineup” they were capable of getting and trust the public would go with it.
“I’m super excited,” Hoffman said. “There are a couple of acts I haven’t seen before and I got to catch a couple of them this past weekend at the Midsummer Festival in Smithers like Khari Wendell McClelland. He’s a soul and gospel singer from Vancouver who is just phenomenal with an amazing set of pipes and amazing charisma with a great stage presence and an awesome band.”
In addition to McLelland, the lineup consists of Sarah Jane Scouten, Mngwa, Sam Tudor, Gabriel Palatchi Trio,Company B Jazz Band, Kitty and the Rooster, Viper Central, Debra-Jean and the Dreams, Pugs and Crows, Marin Patenaude, Real Ponchos, Twin Peaks, Lydia Hol, Kym Gouchie, Wallgrin, Malcolm Jack, Leathan Milne, Jasper Sloan Yip, Colin Easthope, Wooden Horsemen, Cole Patenaude Band, Drum and Bell Tower, Beka Solo and Rich Mac, James Green, Rusty Ford, Devon Wells Trio, Rowan Dolighan, Sundown Spell, Jesaja Class, Robbie Bankes, Big Fancy, Red Monkey Black King, One Below, Jenny Robert, M.Lund, and more.
Big Lake’s own Sam Tudor will be performing a high energy rock and roll set on Friday evening, Hoffman said.
“He’s been pushing to be edgier and it is working for him,” Hoffman said. “I mixed for him down at the Tiny Lights Festival in Ymir and something just happened with his stage banter and stage presence. Something has changed, I can’t quite put my finger on it. He is still really funny and charming and quirky but it doesn’t have cutesy teenybopper feel to it anymore.”
This year the festival has added a stage which means there will be three and half stages, Patenaude said.
“We have the main stage and then during the time between acts we have the tweener stage which is right beside the main stage and that hosts 15-minute sets between main stage acts. Then we have the community hall stage across the road and a brand new self-run solar powered stage at the Horsefly River campground area.”
Bill Irwin has made a solar-powered sound system he’s bringing to the festival that both Patenaude and Hoffman said they are excited about.
“Bill lives on the 108 Mile Road with his partner Maggie Ranger at the Bell Wellness Centre — we call him Electric Bill,” Patenaude said.
Arts on the Fly will open with a traditional welcome to Secwepemc territory by Williams Lake Indian Band elders and council members.
Festival goers can camp at the Horsefly River campground and Patenaude said there is a security team led by Curtis Peters, who did a great job in 2015.
“We will have a massive security presence and an RCMP presence for sure,” she added. “It’s a family-friendly event and we want to preserve that.”
Patenaude said there will be several food vendors and retailers, a kids zone with events for children happening throughout Saturday.
There will be several workshops including yoga on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. with Ciel Patenaude.
“We will have a soul train experience to how music heals energetically as a support network, juggling, all sorts of fun things happening,” Patenaude said. “There will also be some great workshops for musicians interested in expanding their writing abilities.”
This year’s poster was created by artist Julia Iredale from Vancouver Island.
“We really like it. We wanted the festival to be as inclusive and supportive to all artists, including visual artists. We are also bringing in David Jacob Harder to do live painting and he will do a paint night workshop in the beer garden.”
Hoffman said they are considering whether or not to run the festival on a bi-annual basis moving forward.
“This will be a bit of a test run to see what the audience reaction is like and if it feels like good old Arts on the Fly then we’ll know it could work,” Hoffman said.
Normally the festival attracts about 1,000 people including volunteers and performers.
Tickets for the festival are available in Williams Lake at the Bean Counter and at Clarks General Store in Horsefly.