Blizzard Music Festival Ignites Tourism in Mountain Town
Blizzard Music Festival once again took Rossland by storm, signalling the return to the event’s full glory.
After a two-year hiatus, the show went on with more than 35 musical acts sweeping through the city Jan.25–28. The nearly sold-out festival attracted not only local fans but also an abundance of tourists, opening up opportunities for West Kootenay musicians to share their talents on stage with Canadian music icons drawn to the alpine city.
“There was definitely a buzz in the streets as we walked between venues, and even though headliner The Pack A.D. couldn’t make it [due to weather], Rossland really turned up for our show,” says Miesha Louie of Miesha & The Spanks. “You could tell everyone was waiting for Blizzard to return!”
The Calgary-based guitarist and vocalist for the “flashy yet classic hard rock” band is a mainstay performer in the Kootenays. Born and raised in Wilmer/Invermere, BC, Louie says playing in mountain towns feels like coming home.
“Blizzard Fest isn’t just a music festival, it’s part of the town’s Winter Carnival, so it really takes over Rossland,” adds Louie. “I don’t think there are a lot of festivals like it, where you’re up in the forever snowy mountains, and something’s happening everywhere you walk in the small, friendly town. It’s also very well-curated — an awesome mix of high quality, emerging and established Canadian music across all genres.”
The inclusive festival celebrated its 12th year, boosting Canadian artists with an eclectic mix of music from folk/Americana to punk, electronic, and funk. The festival was hosted at six different venues within walking distance of the downtown core, including the outdoor Olaus Ice Palace, which was built for the festival and set the scene for an action-packed vibe. Venues were selected to fit specific genres, with folk artists intimately presented in the Lily May Room, a beautifully renovated attic space in the historic Miners’ Hall.
“I think for some festivals, particularly winter festivals or ones where there is an option for a seated/more focussed listening space, folk music can be a wonderful change of pace,” says Vancouver singer-songwriter Sam Lynch.
She was greeted with a mix of warmth and fun during her first visit to Rossland, an experience she’ll not soon forget.
“Rossland felt very alive, and every person I interacted with was so kind,” she adds. “From what I understood, this was the weekend to be in Rossland, so I felt very lucky that my first visit coincided with the Winter Carnival and Blizzard Fest. It was my first time seeing ski jumps set up on a city street and I’ve never played a festival and skied the next day — that was a treat!”
Visitors shared in the excitement and the impact on Rossland’s tourism industry was evident.
“This weekend is consistently the busiest time for Rossland accommodations and our community is often fully booked,” confirms András Lukács, executive director of Tourism Rossland. “As a staple event in Canada’s winter music scene, Blizzard Music Festival attracts more established acts. Additionally, local performers are able to mobilize an extremely engaged audience and imbue each venue and show with a Kootenay spirit.”
Lead singer/guitarist of Rossland’s Giant Water Bug Brad Mackay and bandmate Austin Delaye concur. Being part of the festival feels like a culmination of their investment into the local music scene.
“I think Blizzard Fest and similar music festivals help foster a community music scene and that`s a big motivation for me, and us as a band,” says drummer Delaye, who also plays guitar with Bitter//Washed. “One
of the most fun things about Blizzard Festival is getting to play with the people you look up to, who are just as
stoked about making music as you are.”
Hosted by The Flying Steamshovel, the festival is coordinated by Dan D’Amour and powered by volunteers and a sponsorship budget. The festival wouldn’t be possible without support from the provincial government’s Fairs, Festivals and Events Recovery Fund, the City of Rossland, Tourism Rossland, and Phillips Brewing and Malting Co.
“We have grown from a two-venue event to a six-venue event,” explains D’Amour. “This growth is directly attributed to demand for tickets and concert experiences by the general public. Securing funding from provincial and municipal governments has also allowed us to expand the lineup and bring in more notable acts over the years. Thanks to everyone who supported our festival — cant wait for next year!”