For a weekend every summer, in a small inlet off Kootenay Lake, a stage bobs in the water.
Year after year, it keeps an eclectic lineup of musicians afloat, as crowds flood Kaslo Bay Park.
On Friday, the tide of music fans will once again come in for the 2017 Kaslo Jazz Etc Festival.
It just so happened Assistant Executive Director Jake Jacobs was taking a break on the shores of Kaslo Bay Park for our interview.
When asked what makes the experience so different for concert-goers who stand where she is every year and become dazzled by what’s behind the stage just as much as what’s on it, her answer was some-what surprising.
“One of the biggest things for me is the sense of community.”
Jacobs couldn’t help but mention Mount Loki and Kootenay Lake doing their part to put together this spectacular natural amphitheater, but she affirms the entire event wouldn’t be possible without the passionate and driven people who want to make Kaslo Jazz Fest something unique.
“The Kootenays are a very special place that’s run on tons of heart and energy and people coming together,” Jacobs asserts. “This is our 26th year and there are so many people who have been involved in the festival since day one. Our site manager, his dad started the festival!”
“People really balance the element of ‘work hard, play hard’ here. A lot of what we do is driven by passion,” she goes on to add. “What we do here at the festival wouldn’t be possible without the community.”
What they did this year is go out and grab arguably the biggest and broadest lineup ever to hit the floating stage.
“We’re excited” Jacobs said as the likes of The Sheepdogs, A Tribe Called Red, The Preservation Jazz Hall Band, Los Lobos, BadBadNotGood, Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, Kootenay favorites Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra and tons of local content are about to ascend on the small Kootenay village.
Regardless, no matter how good the lineup, the village is always injected with a special energy.
“Oh, man. Kalso just buzzes this time of year,” Jacobs proclaims. “It’s awesome and the community is so supportive. One of the parts of the festival is you can cruise through town to get to [the park]. We’ve got the Kaslo Hotel, Sunnyside Naturals. There’s some great restaurants with patios. It really brings everyone together and brings the town alive”.
“Sometimes it gets so crazy here, [businesses] can barely keep up,” says John Addison the President of the Kaslo and Area Chamber of Commerce.
Addison suggests the population of Kaslo, which is normally about 1,000, balloons by five to ten times during the weekend of the festival, causing many makeshift campgrounds to be erected around the village.
“It brings a lot [to the local economy]”, Addison states, suggesting many businesses benefit from the crowds that spill over from Kaslo Bay Park.
“Last year we had a problem on the Monday. Not only had businesses and restaurants run out of food, but they had run out of energy as well,” Addison chuckles.
I’m sure, maybe more so after the fact, it’s some problem local businesses don’t mind having.
“Our local businesses would have a hard time surviving the winter if they didn’t get this big injection over [Kaslo Jazz Fest] weekend,” says Village Mayor Suzan Hewat who takes it one step further than Addison. “It may seem like it shouldn’t be that impactful but I believe it is.”
Hewat says the event has ebbed and flowed over the years, but it’s always incredibly important to the community who come together year after year to get it done.
“[The festival] started from a volunteer effort 26 years ago and it’s just grown since then,” Hewat notes.
“It’s hard to fathom the number of hours people put in”.
The Mayor explains the Kaslo Jazz Fest Society Board of Directors are meeting monthly throughout the year to set direction, communicating with Village staff about logistics, organizers are planning billets for the musicians all before the extensive process of setting up and taking down the physical festival site.
“I can’t imagine the actual [number] of hours it takes. I think people would be surprised.”
Hewat says the event really does so much for the community and gets Kaslo’s name out there, “Once they visit Kaslo, people want to come back.”
The Mayor adds the endless work by organizers and community members doesn’t go unappreciated. All you have to do is look at the faces of those in attendance.
“People are here and they are having a good time. Usually there are no problems over the weekend,” Hewat adds before laughing “other than you can’t find a place to park.”
“It’s such a good feeling,” she emotes. “It’s very nice to see all the different people coming to our community, and they’re all different ages!”
Hewat adds “the craziness”, and the lack of parking, are a very small price to pay for all the benefits Kaslo gets from the event.
The 2017 Kaslo Jazz Etc Festival starts Friday August 4th through Sunday August 6th.
(Photos courtesy of Louis Bockner, Kerri Knapp)