This blog comes a little later than intended – it’s been a whirlwind of a couple weeks. There wasn’t much turnaround time between our annual May Long work weekend on the farm, and the trip I just returned from – the kick off to my festival season – Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, NV (blog for that coming soon as well) with one of our Executive Producers.
The result – I’m behind on keeping you lovely folks up to date on the current happenings in Shambhala-land. So without further ado (and my god, I’m a month late with this), here’s the story of May Long Weekend on the Salmo River Ranch.
Friday, May 18th, 2012
“87 is your number for the meat draw, don’t forget it,” Jive Turkey said as he attached a wristband to one of the Village Crew as they checked in at Reception.
“You can buy more tickets for the draw if you want. Now, the thing you need to know about the meat draw is that there is no meat draw.”
Running joke of the day. The last line is usually met with a mixture of confusion and laughter.
Welcome to the May Long Weekend at the Salmo River Ranch.
It’s Friday, May 18th, 2012. 81 days until Shambhala. The day gets off to a slow start. It began with a small crew who camped overnight on Thursday, and the numbers grow as people arrive throughout the day.
One of the major tasks of the day is marking hazards – or in one case, a sandpiper’s nest right off to the side of the main road, so no one accidentally damages the tiny camouflaged eggs.
It’s a beautiful spring day. Mostly cloudy, but every once in a while, the sun breaks through and shines down brilliantly on the vibrant green pastures.
Oscar, Anna Bundschuh’s Carin Terrier bolts through the fields, terrorizing gophers, yipping excitedly.
By afternoon, I’m stationed at the Reception building with Sara Victor, our Ticket & Vendor Administrator who will become a manager at Reception during the festival – she’s learning the ropes of the position – and Jive Turkey, who’s been a central figure in pre-show Reception for as long as I can remember… he’s joking with people about a fictional meat draw.
As each person arrives at the Reception window to be checked in, I see the same look on their face – under the more obvious exhaustion from travel, and smiles as friends greet each other, there’s a sense of peace and homecoming.
I see it on every person’s face, without fail. “We’re home,” it says.
For the vast majority of us, this would be our first “farm day” of 2012. And for most, it will be nearly 2 months before we’re back. Many of us will live out here in makeshift tent-homes for a good portion of our summer.
It takes a village to raise a festival.
The weeks away from civilization, the dirt, the stress, the long days – its all worth it when it comes together on the second weekend of August. But I’m getting ahead of myself – we’re not out here full time for a while yet!
As the day winds down around 5pm, office crew and team leaders head to the warehouse for our evening meeting. We meet every morning to talk about what projects are happening on the farm, and to make everyone aware of potential hazards and again at the end of day to discuss our accomplishments. We go around the circle, everyone sharing the details of their first farm day.
As the meeting is about to wrap, Corrine makes an announcement that she has a special thank you for everyone. Steen, our Talent Manager, opens a couple big boxes and starts pulling team hoodies out.
The hoodies, a gift from Artical Clothing (Thank You Robbie!!!), are amazing – each sleeve reads “Team Shambhala Music Festival” in what I like to call “LAZER FONT” (Steen insists it’s called “Sunburst”, but it looks like freakin’ lazers), a giant black & white Shambassador owl on the back, and a small, full colour Shambassador owl patch on the left (over our hearts) with our nicknames (mine says “Britz Bitz”).
I was floored. I’ve been working with Shambhala since 2007, and we’ve never had team hoodies. Most of the stages have for a while now. They are such defined, concrete crews – and it’s easy to define them, because each stage has its own distinct personality.
I suppose we’ve never had team hoodies before because we don’t have a single word or name that can define us as a crew. Sometimes I feel we’re just some kind of weird ethereal glue… the sticky bits connecting every different culture and idea the festival represents. So to have something like this, something solid and unifying really is HUGE! Haha… it seems silly… that a simple sweater could mean so much. But it does.
This gesture was just so special. Huge thanks to our Executive Producers, Steen and Artical!
May Long Weekend – The Tradition
The May Long tradition started several years ago as a spring clean up of the farm. A weekend to put on dust masks, and sweep the mouse poop out of the buildings (being year-round Shambhala crew is not as glamorous as you might think – no one is above sweeping mouse turds or shoveling cow poo – not our execs, and not anyone else), assess the damage winter had done on various structures, and get an idea of what woluld need repairs in the coming months. At night, we’d gather together around the fire (maybe 20 of us) and catch up – some of us may not have seen each other since we’d parted ways at the end of the previous Shambhala.
And while May Long Weekend is still all of those things, it was much more of a “rough and dirty” ordeal than it is now. It really feels like we’ve grown up, and May Long has become more of an operations test-run than the humble clean up it began as.
Over the past two years, participation grown tremendously. That small crew of 20 or so has grown to about 200. Most of the stage crews are on board, and have anywhere from a small skeleton crew to their full force teams tidying up the stages.
Saturday, May 19th, 2012
It’s strange how much it feels like July. Yesterday’s slow start feels like it was weeks ago. Everyone has found their groove. We’ve suddenly snapped into our summer routine. That didn’t take long.
When the farm transforms into the festival work site it becomes its own little world, with its own customs. Farm dogs ride shotgun in golf carts. Vehicles stop parallel to each other on the road and drivers chat – sometimes this is the best way to get information out of someone you’ve been looking for all day. Day 2 of May Long and these customs are in full force.
As I drive out to Reception in the morning, I run into Amy & Jessica of Dub Selekta, driving the opposite way on the farm road – just who I was hoping to run into. And so, my day begins with an impromptu meeting.
Sitting on piles of wood that have been milled by farm-owner Rick, we hash out their pre-festival coverage plan, which will include an interview series, and a mini-mix series. It’s a great meeting, and it leaves me feeling excited and inspired. Love what these girls are doing.
If you’ve missed the first installments of Dub Selekta’s pre-festival coverage, check out these links:
All mixes will be hosted on Shambhala’s Soundcloud
Up near the farm houses, Jimmy is in the excavator working on the Market Garden – a project that will start coming together in 2013. He’s cleared over an acre, and now we’re preparing the soil to have a good, proper vegetable garden that will be able to supply our staff kitchen – and maybe even some of our food vendors one day. It’s an ambitious project, and we want to get it right, which is why we’re taking our time – clearing the space this year, working on the soil, and preparing to plant next spring. We’ve been dreaming of this for years – we were looking back at old notebooks from the early days in the winter, and found a mention of the idea as far back as ’02. It’s so amazing to see it coming together.
Back Downtown, the Crew Kitchen is bustling with activity. Our newly hired Kitchen Manager is doing an operations test run today, feeding the 200-or-so crew that are on site. The Kitchen was in relatively good shape after this winter – much better than last year. In the spring of 2011, a bear broke in and destroyed the place! It was much easier to get it up and running this year.
The Fractal Forest has taken it upon themselves to provide entertainment. This is the first time I’ve ever heard music (loud) at May Long. It’s a bit of a trip… to be downtown, and hear songs I’d heard in the Forest last summer. It’s an odd mix of déjà vu and anticipation for festival time that puts a smile on my face.
As I look down the path to The Forest & The Village from the food court area, 4 Fractal volunteers are happily raking leaves to some upbeat remix of James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)”. I can’t help it – it puts a huge smile on my face. Somehow, the entire scene is just so… perfect.
A lot of surveying is being done today. New ShambhaLoding sites and our new beverage projects in particular – The Night Owl Hot Brews, Farm Phresh Smoothies, the Tea Tree and Apothecary. It’s an exciting first step – ideas we dreamed up in the winter are now beginning to become reality.
Later I run into Avrell Fox. She’s a local artist who’s been involved with the festival in various ways over the years. This year she’s making a bunch of custom hats that will be available at the Beatique (Shambhala’s official Merch store). She’s made about 15 already, has about 30 left to create. She wants each one to be a unique piece of artwork, so she came up to the farm this weekend for some inspiration. I caught up with her taking some pictures Downtown. Apparently the visit to the farm is just what she needed.
At one point our Executive Producer, Corrine, brought her miniature donkeys down from her house. That was exciting!
Around 4:30 the office crew, team leaders and gardening vollys gather downtown for an “Emu Bob” (that’s e-mew, not e-moo)- which, basically means we spread out and do a grid sweep of large areas to remove rocks and other hazards so our site crew can safely use the mower.
(NOTE: This is a really effective way to clean up your camp throughout the festival, and when you leave. Lineup with your campmates arms-length apart, and walk forward in a straight line, picking up any litter in your path. It’s easy, and quick!)
Night falls and people bundle up as it gets cooler. We start a bonfire that everyone gathers around. This Saturday night gathering is the only one of its kind all year – the May Long crew are Shambhala die hards. Many of us have been a part of Shambhala pre-show for five years or more, and as you look around the fire, there isn’t a face you don’t recognize. Stages mingle with site and office crew – which gets harder to do when we come back in July, everyone gets so focused on their own projects.
So this one evening out the year is like a little Farmily Reunion for us. It’s an opportunity to connect with each other, and get excited about the fact that we’re about to embark on another amazing year of Shambhala Music Festival.
As I look around the fire, I feel so much love for all these wonderful people, without whom there would not be a Shambhala.
May Long was an incredibly productive work weekend for everyone. We got so much done. Everyone left feeling like they’d gotten ahead.
Not long now until we’re all back on site, and then the pressure will be on! Shambhala 2012 is just around the corner.