Summer Fest-imonial Part 3 - Shambhala
Shambhala is a mid-summer nights dream in every sense-a sanctuary for friendship, laughter, river play, and world renowned stages. Having been before I thought I had an idea of what to expect...but to my joyous surprise, this year's gathering turned out to be unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. So come with me as I relive my latest festival journey. And as always, I'm so very happy that you're here!
It all began the weekend before the festival when my press pass was accepted at the very last minute. The instant I heard the news I had to stop myself from bursting into cartwheels. I was going to Shambs?! YEEEEESSSS!
Time to pack my bags and get on my way.
When I first arrived at the Salmo River Ranch I had butterflies in my stomach. It was my first festival as press without any other duties (ie. volunteering, staff, artist, etc.) so I knew it was going to be a fantastic experience. This little laminated pass was going to allow me access to people and places that I normally wouldn't have and I was axnious to get a look at as much behind-the-scenes activity as I could. After all, this was the site of some of my fondest festival momets, namely my excursion to Shambhala in 2015 where Zeds Dead played a surprise set on Sunday night at the Pagoda Stage. Just so much fun! The memory of that evening and the thought of meeting and talking with similarly talented artists got my mind spinning into overdrive (Fangirl sidenote- I was especially excited about on catching Illenium's set Saturday night)! Bottom line was the best night of my life was in serious jeapordy of being toppled by an even better best night of my life. I just knew it!
As I settled into a camp site behind The Grove Stage (home of the bass) I was greeted by a friendly neighbor who was grilling up some fresh Coho Salmon that he’d caught himself. "Let the abundance and blessings begin!", I thought and I would soon learn that it would be just the first of many loving, selfless exchanges that were to take place that weekend. I truly couldn't imagine a more perfect welcoming to my temporary home. Once our meal was finished, my belly full, and my tent set it was time to explore.
The weekend kicked off with the opening ceremonies, where hundreds of people gathered to give thanks to the land and show gratitude for the beautiful adventure ahead. This year was particularly special, because it was the 20th year anniversary and the festival creators were in the highest of spirits. The sky was filled with smoke from the nearby wildfires (more on that later), but that was not going to stop us from embracing each moment that we had.
When the ceremony ended, I took a trip over to the yoga zone to check out the class schedule.
Anyone whose been to a festival before knows that you spend an extraordinary amount of time on your feet whether it be walking between stages, hiking, dancing, dancing some more, and dancing even more still. In between all of that ground pounding it feels amazing and is almost essential to rest and restore yourself with as many yoga classes as you can attend. The deep stretching and rythmic breathing also helps center the mind and bring your intentions into focus. Personally, I had several in mind for Shambhala and was hopeful that by weekend's end I'd be prepared to fully embrace the direction of the Autumn season ahead, be open to and aware of any sign that may present itself, and be ready for any opportunities that would come my way.
Our yoga instructor, Jenna, has become a brilliant instituation at this event as she returns to Salmo River year after year to open our salutations to the Shambhalan sun. As she guided us through a gentle flow my mind and body connected once again and my soul began to fill with renewed energy from every direction. In that moment I was reminded of what a gift shared experiences like these really are. Breathing together, moving in sync, chanting in harmony. There is certainly no denying it...we are all one.
With the blood pumping and the body refreshed, I found myself called toward the river for a cool dip in order to fully complete the rejuveation process. Now I say "cool" but that's a bit of a giant understatement. Being located in British Columbia, the waters of the Salmo River flow cold, like very cold, like brrrrr, teeth-chattering cold, all year round. What makes it so inviting still is that the weather, mood, and people are usually just so hot that the sub-optimal temperature of the water feels like a jolt of cold lighting that courses through your entire body and ignites all of your senses in a flash. Usually I like to perform the little river revival with only a small group of close friends but as I approached the bend I quickly realized that wasn't going to be the case this time. From shore to shore the shallows were filled with a circus of eye-popping colors, highly creative costumes, and fun-shaped floaties of every kind. It was a living, breathing comic book and it looked like so much fun that despite the fact that I had come looking for something a bit more peaceful, I allowed my mind embrace the fantasy and slipped right into a character of my own.
Water adds such a cool element to the experience (literally!) and with the smoke from the nearby wildfires filling the air, the river became a necessary stop throughout the days. At times it was the only reprieve from the dust and ash surrounding us.
The wild fires in the Pacific Northwest are no joke, the ash was so dense that you could hold it in the palm of your hand. Things got so bad that on Saturday afternoon, the festival creators were forced to notify us of a possible evacuation. It was rumored that unless we were magically blessed with rain before sunrise, the entire event would end a day early. Definitely not the news we wanted to hear. A good number of people even decided to pack up and leave that evening to avoid Sunday traffic jams. But for those of us who believed...
...we had a night that will never be forgotten. With no promise of tomorrow we left it all out there; dancing, laughing, loving, and living in the only moment that we were sure we had.
Hour after hour the crowds vibe continued to peak with the artists feeding off of our energy and giving it right back to us with thumping gratitude. For me though, the best was still to come.
As Vanic’s set came to an end (which was outrageous, btw) I started bubbling with excitement. I was about to see my favorite artist perform at my favorite festival, Illenium. Yesssss!
When the lights popped and he came on, I was jumping up and down like a little girl. His current album resonates with me so deeply that for me, this was almost a spiritual experience. I set my eyes on the platforms that ran across the fence line at the front of the stage and made my move. I decided to try my luck dancing there first, but as soon as I pulled myself up and got started, security made me get down. How'd they know I like a challenge?!
My next move should have been my first. I surveyed the stage once more and saw that there were only three photographers up there, and while some DJ’s don’t allow media to be on stage, I decided to give it a try. I quickly made my way to the back entrance, flashed my magical pass at security, and she let me right up.
Wow, that was easy!
From there it was a breeze. I quickly found myself some room to move and before I knew it a spotlight had found me. I was living this girl's dance fantasy, something I had been playfully envisioning for months, before I even knew I would be attending Shambhala. It was a dream come true!
As I walked around, cloud 9 beneath my feet, I couldn’t help but noticed the intensity of positive vibes all around. I saw friendships being formed, heard the sound of light-hearted laughter everywhere, while everyone was celebrating in the highest of spirits because this had been a magical night.
Almost back to my campsite, I decided to pause for a spell beneath the wishing tree and release a few ideas out into the universe. No sooner had I began when someone walked up to me and blurted out, “Pray for rain!”. Definitely amused and most certainly inspired, I looked up at him with a smile and said, “I’m on it.”
Satisfied to call it a night but absolutely famished I decided to take one more detour to the Phad Thai food cart where a small crowd with similar thoughts had gathered. Nourishment in hand and converstion flowing I once again felt completely content when all of a sudden it hit me.....a raindrop the size of a nickel. Within seconds the sky opened up completely and we found ourselves in a full on downpour. We quickly scrambled under the awning of the cart to seek shelter but soon found out the awning was no match for the heavy rain. No sooner had the last person squeezed herself alongside of us then the entire awning came collapsing down releasing a small waterfall on us all! It was hilariously crazy, but more importantly it meant that the festival was saved.
I “woke up” Sunday morning to cheers and howls. Those of us who chose to stay were going to have another full day of adventure, and this time the sun came out! Spirits were so lifted and gratitude was so vast, that everyone was running on a natural high. When night time rolled around, every stage offered plenty of room to dance, and everyone was connecting on a new level. Usually by Sunday night everybody is haggard and the stages are still packed, but this magical night had a completely different energy to it. I knew that this same connectedness would roll over into The Oregon Eclipse Gathering, and I could hardly wait.
As the smoke cleared, I walked around with a new glow, a new sense of hope for the future. The connection I felt with the people around me on that fateful Sunday afternoon was unlike any festival experience I had ever had. It warmed me from the inside out and gave me an even deeper sense of confidence in the direction I am taking my life. I felt so blessed to have been a part of it all.
Shambhala is a place that many people call home. Some attendees have been with the festival since it’s birth in '97. People travel from around the world to explore this magical land of treehouse and making friends is a breeze in the trees. Everybody wants to help each other have the best possible experience they can have, and it really shows. The people behind the scenes have done it right and I feel so blessed to have celebrated twenty years with them. Until next year… Happy Shambs!