The Rock of the Woods music festival received final approval from the Cowichan Valley Regional District in January to return to its preferred site in Sahtlam for the next three years, and plans are now under way to make the July 2016 edition the best one yet.
Perhaps the biggest thing coming won’t be part of the festival itself. Festival organizers have been hoping for years to start a bursary for high school students in the Cowichan Valley on behalf of the Oswego Arts and Cultural Society. Students will be able to apply for the bursary for the first time this September.
“The naysayers didn’t understand that couldn’t get going without the three-year commitment,” Rock of the Woods promoter Dave Bain said. “Some of our volunteers are only on the team because of that project. It’s so wrapped around the community now.”
Bain’s company, Surge Productions, will donate the money for the bursary this year, and in the future it will rely on profits from Rock of the Woods.
The three-year permit the CVRD has given to Rock of the Woods will allow the festival to make some major improvements, Bain said, beginning with changes to the site.
Although no permanent structures can be built, they will be expanding the camping area and installing power. Having three years to work with also allows the festival to apply for grants that were not previously available.
“We are having to re-learn all the existing things,” Bain said.
Even though the festival has secured a three-year permit, Bain wants to make sure Rock of the Woods can survive well past 2018, and hopes to work with neighbours who have raised concerns about the event to assuage those concerns. Their input, positive or negative, will be heard.
“The whole idea was never to make anyone feel uncomfortable about the festival,” he said.
Bain remains satisfied with the safety of the Rock of the Woods site and recently met with the RCMP about the festival.
“They’re excited about it,” he said. “They’re calling it a non-event.”
Bain has done some preliminary booking for the festival, but still faces challenges in that area, even with the three-year permit.
The three largest festivals in North America are all in B.C. and Washington, and many artists have to sign clauses that limit them from performing elsewhere in the area in the four months around those festivals. Bain wants to make it clear, however, that he doesn’t want to be in the same category with those festivals.
“I feel that the big festivals are going to do their own thing, and that’s not an arena I want to compete in,” he said.
Bain wants to cap attendance at certain levels, well below those that the CVRD permit will allow, in order to keep Rock of the Woods as a “boutique” or “experiential” festival.
The venue adjacent to the Cowichan River off Irvine Drive remains the focal point of the event, Bain emphasized.
“I would argue that it’s the best venue on Vancouver Island,” he said.