Kaslo’s festival scene is earning Canada-wide recognition

Kaslo May Days and the Kaslo Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival are two of the top celebrations in Canada


The longest running festival in the Kootenays received major recognition by Readers Digest magazine this year. The Kaslo May Days celebration was recently voted one of Canada's Top 10 Victoria Day Celebrations by the magazine—and it's no wonder: Kaslo May Days is an event that fully encompasses the beauty of the village of Kaslo and the spirit of its residents.

This incredible West Kootenay community is also home to the Kaslo Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival, which was voted by USA Today in 2007 as one of the Top Ten Great Places to Get in Tune and Be Outdoors. This year will be the festival's 22nd, which features amazing talent from around the world.

Kaslo May Days celebration

Jim Holland is the executive director of the Kaslo Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival and an organizer of Kaslo May Days. Holland said he felt great about the Kaslo May Days event making the top 10 list.

"I saw that recently and it feels pretty good," said Holland. "Without trying to be overly self-confident, it is a pretty spectacular setting and follows on the heels of the jazz festival being rated as one of the top 10 outdoor venues in North America by USA Today in 2007. I think it has to do with the optics of our location. It is so scenic and picturesque at the lake—and with such a pristine and natural setting, it easily grabs people's attention pretty quick. And once people peel back the photo, they start to see the substance of what's going on here. It's pretty much a shoo-in for being a well-renowned setting for events."

Kaslo May Days has been going on for 125-plus years. The celebration acts as a homecoming for former Kaslo residents and attracts many visitors who keep coming back. May Days includes a parade, a car show and shine, a dance, outdoor vendors, street markets, helicopter rides and logger sports.

The logger sports are a huge draw and are part of the international circuit of competitors who tour around Canada and the U.S. Championship events such as tree climbing, log rolling, axe throwing and springboard chopping amaze the crowds that come to watch. This year, world records were broken in the pole climbing segment.

All of this takes place in the beautiful setting which is Kaslo, on the shores of Kootenay Lake with the Purcell Mountains as the backdrop.

This year, some 1,300 people attended the two-day Kaslo May Days celebration.

Kaslo Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival

The 22nd Annual Kaslo Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival happens August 2 to 4, 2013. The festival's main stage presents a delight for the eyes and the ears. The floating stage is situated just along the shore of Kootenay Lake, allowing festivalgoers to enjoy the music from the water and get their feet (and bodies) wet while having a front-row view of world-class musicians.

The festival consists of two days of amazing music, which Holland said is not just jazz.

"The festival is intentionally called 'jazz etc.' because it's not strictly a jazz festival," he said. "Jazz is the root foundation of the music presented. So from an artistic direction side, there is always an effort to present different kinds of music and other genres that have close links—what we call sensibilities—to jazz. We have anything from classical (to) pop, folk and world music that all have links and cross-pollination with jazz in many different ways. Jazz was really the beginning of exploration in music that is uniquely North American and Canadian."

So far, the programming for the festival this year is nothing short of spectacular, said Holland. He is extremely excited about some of the acts that will be gracing the stage this summer, including the Dan Brubeck Quartet, Sultans of String, Dehli 2 Dublin, Shakura S'Aida and Tempo Libre.

The park where the festival is held is quite intimate—suitable for a capacity of about 1,800 people. Holland said it's great because it is possible for festivalgoers to rub shoulders with musicians. There is also camping available at the Kaslo Municipal Campground.

"Jazz music is this great unifier," said Holland. "It really brings all the people together, shows great tolerance and acceptance and is innovative and improvisational. All of this comes together at the festival—it's incredible."

For more information on the Kaslo Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival or to get tickets, visit the website.

Karen Kornelsen

Karen Kornelsen, a writer for Kootenay Business Magazine, has a degree in jounalism. She enjoys finding and reporting the news from the business community. View all of Karen Kornelsen’s articles

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