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Making a musical commitment

Inaugural Whistler Music Festival promises weekend of big-names and fun times



In less than two weeks, The Roots, Elvis Costello, and many other talented musicians will take the stage at Base II on Blackcomb Mountain.

The inaugural Whistler Music Festival will get local and visiting music lovers moving on Saturday, July 19 and Sunday, July 20, and organizers say people don’t need to worry about them pulling the plug at the last minute.

The two-day festival, which is a joint project of the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Tourism Whistler, and Whistler-Blackcomb, was first announced at the end of May. Produced by the Festival Network, the event will feature performances by some big names in the music business.

“Honestly, it’s been a long time coming and there are still some nonbelievers up there, and there are still people, even after we’ve… enlisted a great lineup and spent a lot of time, money and resources in putting up what we think will be a terrific event, there are still people who think we’re going to pull the plug,” said Tom Shepard, CEO of Festival Network.

But Shepard wants skeptics to know that they have entered into a long-term agreement with the partner agencies, so while they may not reach their goal in terms of ticket sales this year, they expect the festival to grow annually.

“We recognize this is a long term investment, and it’s going to be a build,” Shepard added.

Eventually, the goal would be for the festival to attract an audience of 10,000 to 12,000 people per day.

“We would hope that in time, this festival has the same kind of high season impact lift that peak periods during the ski seasons do,” Shepard said. “Most ski resorts are trying to build out their summer traffic — Whistler is no exception.”

Shepard said the principal effect of an event like the Whistler Music Festival should be sustainable tourism, which is of interest to the partner organizations that are looking to boost the economy by drawing visitors during the summer months. The spin-off economic beneficiaries include retailers, restaurants, accommodation providers, and adventure tour operators.

Shepard, who has had previous experience with destination marketing for the Whistler and Vancouver areas, joined Festival Network in late 2007.

Since joining the network, he has witnessed a lot of change and growth within the company, especially in regards to their festival portfolio, with five new events, including the Whistler Music Festival, added this year.