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Kaslo Jazz Fest looking for camping areas after record-speed ticket sales

Village council wants to know where spectators will be staying
Pre-pandemic the Kaslo Jazz Fest, drew huge crowds to this small Kootenay town. Photo:

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

Organizers of the Kaslo Jazz Festival are confident they can find enough campsites to house visitors coming for the weekend-long event at the end of July.

Though they admit they were taken aback by the demand.

“We’ve never sold that many tickets that fast before,” executive director Paul Hinrichs told Kaslo council at the March 22 council meeting. “So the optics of that caught all of us by surprise.”

Organizers want the festival, which is returning after a two-year COVID hiatus, to be a more casual, community event. And by selling 1,000 fewer tickets, the festival had hoped to drop the need to run their own campgrounds, which has been a drain on volunteers.

But then tickets went on sale March 3.

“I’ll admit we under-estimated … I really thought mostly locals would buy tickets,” he said. “We sold out the festival in 24 hours on a $100 Facebook ad.”

That led to debate around the community about where all these out-of-town festival-goers will be housed during the weekend-long event. Hinrichs was asked to appear before council after an in-camera meeting on the subject March 8.

Hinrichs said organizers had counted on most festival-goers to be locals. Now providing camping has become an issue again, and the scramble to meet demand has begun.

“We don’t want to operate the campground internally, and we were hoping to use a model that would encourage other local organizations to get involved and they can make the profit,” he said.

They’ve approached the riding club, arena, private landowners and others with some open space. He says the festival has secured enough campsites for about 400 ticket-holders. They’re looking to secure about 100 more sites, which would house about another 250 people.

“If we do, that would get us about three-quarters of the sites we had in 2019, but we are selling significantly less tickets this year, so I am confident that will meet all our camping needs for the festival this year,” he told council.

The washroom and shower facilities will be the same as last year, Hinrichs assured council. Other sites are being explored for campgrounds for the crew and artists, including a residential area off Larch Street.

“We recognize it is in a residential area, so we need to be conscious of who camps there,” he said, “so we were thinking more artists and crew.”

Once organizers are confident they’ve secured camping for every ticket holder, they’ll put the last block of 400 tickets up for sale.

“Those will go very, very fast,” Hinrichs told council. “We thought of putting them out to the community web for local ticket sales.”

The festival is also working at arranging public transit to reduce traffic downtown. Shuttle service may be provided to Nelson and elsewhere.

Council had a few questions for Hinrichs, and Councillor Rob Lang even had a lead on camping space at the Kaslo golf course.

Village staff is working with the Jazz Fest on these issues, and is also checking into ensuring the event has the proper permits from the province to have the stage moored in the harbour that weekend.

“Because there hasn’t been an event in a couple of years, it looks to me like some of those permits have lapsed,” Village corporate officer Catherine Allaway told council. “And we are going to be working with the province to get everything back in order in a timeline that is needed to get the event happening this year.”