Believe Freedom Festival organizers might have taken the loss they anticipated for the first-year music and cultural festival, but they say they're happy with how the five-day event unfolded and promise to return next year.
"The weekend was fantastic. It really was," says Jane Moran, who spearheaded the festival with her husband Adrian. "The turnout was great for us this year. We knew we would take a loss. We didn't exceed our number of 3,000, but we got close to that."
The final numbers won't be tallied for about two weeks, but Moran estimates they drew close to 2,500 people from July 11 to 15. The festival took place at Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley and featured reggae, hip hop and a host of electronic music acts.
"Julian Marley was spectacular," Moran adds. "He sounded just like his dad. It was a really great time, so I think it was a good pick."
While she says the five days mostly unfolded without a hitch (save for at least one camper who was displeased with barking dogs), next year they hope to secure sponsors well ahead of time so they can focus on production rather than funding.
"The amount of money and time it took to do permitting really ate into our production planning time. The production was great, the sound quality was amazing, but there were a few behind-the-scenes issues we had that we didn't have time to plan for. The patrons didn't see any of that. It was us sitting in the office sorting stuff out. Next year I would line up sponsors to line up the money up front and focus on our team. It's never going to be perfect for our first year. We pulled it off and had a good turnout."
Whistler residents made up most of the crowd, but there were also patrons from Alberta and some from overseas who were more familiar with the festival's trance music offerings. "I had a long chat with the Luminaries from L.A. and they couldn't get over the scenery," Moran says. "A lot of patrons as well said it was beautiful. So many people said they didn't even know that place existed."
The couple built the festival roster to include genres they knew locals would like — hip hop and reggae, the latter especially proving to be a hit — while introducing them to the Goa-trance music that is popular overseas. While Moran says she's happy overall with the lineup, next year they will tweak the schedule slightly.
"Reggae was the most popular and drum and bass was pretty popular last night (Sunday night) and the Goa-trance stage was popular all weekend, but mostly at night, not during the day," she says. "At festivals in Europe there are people dancing from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Here people tend to rest during the day and as it starts to get dark everyone comes out. I would probably do it a little differently. I wouldn't schedule all my stages during the day because people are resting."
While she openly admits the couple took a hit financially, she adds they were expecting it. Growing an event is always tricky and they're determined to bring it back next year. They plan to sort out the remaining financial details in the coming week, take a short break and get back to planning for 2014.
"We're building a business here," she says. "You've got to live and breathe your business and Adrian and I love this business."