Its name might suggest a focus on sports, but each year the Great Outdoors Festival (GO Fest) has added more arts events to its roster.
Now heading into its fifth year, the May long weekend celebration—organized by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW)—has plenty of painting, film and music events on offer from Friday, May 18, until Monday, May 21.
“I think there’s a number of factors here,” says Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. “One is arts and culture, generally speaking, is increasingly important to this town and what goes on here. We’ve seen through all the different initiatives through the last three or four years—everything from the obvious opening of the Audain Art Museum with the cultural connector, what we see happening up at the SLCC, and our Festival Events and Animation program throughout the course of the summer—arts and culture is a point of emphasis for this town these days.”
To that end, several local organizations have paired up with GO Fest to host events under its banner this year. Arts Whistler is hosting Paint with Isobel at the Lake, the Whistler Museum is presenting Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week and the Whistler Film Festival is running its Adventure Film Series.
On top of that you’ll find Wine about Art—pairing wine and painting—run by White Dog Studios, Bocce & Brunch, which includes its namesake activities as well as a musical instrument swap, jam session and other activities at The Point Artist-Run Centre, and a screening of the Mature Action Community’s film about the seniors of Whistler.
“Certainly that (art) aspect of the festival has grown,” Wilhelm-Morden says. “In the early days it was the relay race and some other sporting activities. You could play tennis or get a golf lesson or (things) like that. We had a couple concerts right at the beginning as well.”
This year, there will be five acts playing for free in Village Square. On Friday night at 7 p.m. catch The Philosopher Kings, Saturday at 3 p.m. you can see Carmanah followed by Current Swell at 7:30 p.m., Coco Jafro plays at 3 p.m. on Sunday and closing out the weekend are The Funk Hunters at 7:30 p.m.
“I think there’s an emphasis on Canadian artists who (were) available in and around this area at that time,” Wilhelm-Morden adds. “Then, because it’s family oriented, you want to make sure the bands are going to hit that (mark). And then name recognition as well plays into the choice of the band too.”
After half a decade, the festival has achieved its goal of turning the notoriously rowdy long weekend in Whistler into three days of community-oriented fun, she says.
“I think the word is out. What we’re seeing are a lot of families from out of town coming. We’re seeing a lot of local people staying when they used to head out of town,” she says. “We’re not seeing the hoards of rowdy people from the Lower Mainland coming up, so I think the word is out.” For more information on the festival visit greatoutdoorsfest.com.