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Shambhala 2022
(Photo credit: Dance Music NW)

Events

A first-timer’s journey to Shambhala in its triumphant post-pandemic return

With festival season in full swing after the past few year’s difficulties, I decided it was high time to go to a festival I have been wanting to visit since first laying eyes on it. This year I went to my first Shambhala. Shambhala is one of the top festival experiences across the globe, known internationally for its beautiful scenery, insane stage designs, and diehard community.

Credit: Michael-John Aprahamian

As a first time attendee, I was ecstatic to go to a festival that I had heard so many positive things about. The music, stages, and atmosphere at this four-day event was said to create an incomparable experience that brings you back year after year. For the uninitiated: This multi-genre festival just across the Canadian border hosts some of the most creative and distinct stages around, including The Fractal Forest, The Pagoda, and The Village, as well as the Amphitheatre and the Living Room. Shambhala brings massive and talented acts from across the globe as well as fans who have been coming back for five, 10, or even 20 years.

Credit: Michael-John Aprahamian

When I arrived at the Salmo River campground, I was met with the cheery faces of staff who were more than happy to guide and educate me and my fellow campers. I was pleasantly surprised by the level of advocacy for common sense practices from both staff and campers. The open and inviting discussion of harm reduction and safety was something that I really enjoyed.

The gorgeous campgrounds beside the Salmo River provided a comfortable place to hang out and rest before and after each day of music. The abundance of trees and brush helped to lessen the warm weather and provided shade throughout the day. Multiple river access points with beach heads and standing pools gave a great opportunity to cool off in the river while enjoying the nearby music.

Credit: Michael-John Aprahamian

Shambhala had an incredible range of music between its six fantastic stages. Options were practically endless in what to listen to at any given time, from hip hop, trance, and house to dubstep, drum and bass, and everything in between. I was never left bored and the music was never stagnant. With amazing performances that ran for the majority of the day, night, and even morning, there was an endless stream of tunes to enjoy.

Credit: Anna Stearns

Walking paths and access points to each stage left minimal traffic and allowed quick movement from one stage to the next. Elevated platforms and wide dance floors provided great viewpoints to take photos and lots of room to dance. A diverse selection of food, drinks, and merchandise was available, from lemonade, pizza, and kombucha, to homemade crafts and gemstones. I was particularly intrigued to find that Shambhala was a dry event, and supported the policy in the spirit of harm reduction and minimizing dangerous incidents due to alcohol.

Each stage was totally unique and held its own special qualities. Throughout the four days of music and festivities, I was awe truck by the production value and sound quality of each stage. Tree-lines and well placed speakers helped isolate each stage’s sound, and each one was well equipped with enough speaker power to be enjoyed from any angle. Dancers and performers swung, jumped, and danced across the stages while lights and lasers flashed through the trees and art installations. It was truly a thrilling and unparalleled experience.

Credit: Anna Stearns

Credit: Anna Stearns

I was most excited to see the new and improved Pagoda stage, which had gone through its first major upgrades for the festival’s 2019 edition. Needless to say I was not disappointed whatsoever. The iconic stage wowed with its unique lighting design and powerful sound system. My overall favorite stage design however was the Fractal Forest’s 360-degree dancefloor and pyramid-shaped booth. The encompassing trees and key placements of projectors, lights, and art made this stage incredibly immersive and entertaining.

The attendees of Shambhala were considerate of others’ space and safety and were not reluctant to help those around them. When moving through the crowds, people were mindful of others, and very few if any seemed to be obnoxious or ignorant of other people’s safety and enjoyment. It would seem that either the location, setting, or just the loyalty of those who have visited Shambhala religiously for its 24 years of operation, has resulted in a respectful and polite crowd that is truly there to experience this otherworldly event and share it with the thousands of strangers around them in peace.

After a weekend of exciting and memorable experiences, it was time to head back to the real world. Even as I drove out of the campgrounds, staff and campers were generous and kind. Shambhala has gained another devout follower in me, and I will surely be visiting this festival for many years to come.

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