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Tourism Whistler to stage signature summer festival

World music, Canadian film and local art all part of mid-July extravaganza

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A new summer arts and music festival is set to take place over the midsummer weekend of Friday, July 9 through Sunday, July 11 Tourism Whistler confirmed earlier this week.

The music side of the event will consist of a variety of acts performing between noon and dusk on a main stage and throughout Whistler Village.

The main stage will have an international flavour. Confirmed acts include Bara-rumba, a 15-piece folkloric percussion, song and dance troupe from Cuba; the upbeat Mexican music of Mariachi del Sol; and Latin jazz/salsa ensemble Rumba Calzada, a 2003 World Music Juno award nominee.

Additional confirmed acts include the laid back calypso and reggae grooves of Vancouver-based Caribbean steel drum band Soul Survivors; and Tango Paradiso, purveyors of the passionate sounds of traditional and modern Argentine tango music.

Tourism Whistler event marketing manager Gwen Young said the festival will also include a lineup of local musicians, most of whom will play in different plaza locations throughout Whistler Village over the weekend.

The arts side of the festival event will be characterized by collaborations. The Whistler Arts Council will be delaying the start of their summer Artwalk project by one week to coincide with the launch of the festival, confirmed Arts Council director Doti Niedermayer.

Artwalk will exhibit select local artists’ works in businesses and other non-traditional gallery spaces. Each guerrilla gallery will host an artist reception to launch the event during the festival. Exhibits will be mapped out by an Arts Council-produced brochure.

The Whistler Film Festival Society will also be contributing to the festival, screening an award-winning Canadian film outdoors at Lost Lake Park on Friday, July 9, festival director Shauna Hardy confirmed.

Comedy in the Sky, the fledgling Whistler comedy festival that debuted last September under the initiative of the Whistler Events Bureau, is another prospective festival collaborator said Young.

The decision to host what the organization deems a new signature event for Whistler was a result of an Ipsos-Reid market research study undertaken in 2003 said Arlene Schieven, Tourism Whistler’s vice president of marketing.

In addition to online surveys to determine visitor preferences Schieven said the study examined successful stateside festivals, such as the Monterey Wine Festival and the Sundance Film Festival, in an attempt to break down the best way to draw overnight visitors from the U.S. and British Columbia.

"We’ve had smaller festivals in the past but the idea is to have something that you associate with the destination," said Schieven.

"Really what came out from the research quite clearly in terms of preferred festivals was food and wine, and music and arts. Those came out clearly well above any other festival themes we tested.

"So from that, Cornucopia (Tourism Whistler’s November food and wine event) is covering the food and wine component. We want to grow that and continue to improve on that event. The music and the arts is where we saw the opportunity to focus our (summer festival) event."

Schieven says she sees potential for multiple "signature" festival events in Whistler, citing Cornucopia in the late fall, acknowledging W1’s World Ski and Snowboard Festival in the spring and now adding to the list the Whistler Arts and Music Festival debuting this summer.

Her organization is committed to the festival as an annual event, she assured, even though the inaugural year is bound to have some growing pains. A concert with a headliner act was originally intended for the evening of Saturday, July 10, possibly staged at the base of Creekside, using the ski hill as a natural amphitheatre. However, whether or not the concert – a collaborative effort with an independent promoter – will occur at all is yet to be determined. It’s possible that the concert will occur later in the summer.

"We’re going to start and try out a few things and we’ll build on it from there," Schieven said.

Summer street entertainment to be organized by theme

In addition to the arts and music festival, Tourism Whistler will also be launching a new format for its summer street entertainment this year, Young said.

A series of theme weekends will occur throughout the summer starting with the Canada Day weekend, July 1-4. The series wraps up on the Labour Day weekend, Sept. 3-6, with a Celebration of Psyche and Soul, which will partner with the West Coast Mystic Arts Institute for a weekend psychic fair.

Other theme weekends include Jazz, Blues ’n’ Swing, Latin Heat, Classical Music in the Mountains, World Music, A Tribute to Juggling and a weekend of sporty entertainment to coincide with the CrankWorx Whistler Summer Bike Festival.

The theme corresponding with the Whistler Arts and Music Festival weekend is Colourful Characters, featuring acts such as the Colossal Canadian Couple, Stiffy the Robot, caricaturist Mark Siermaczeski, chalk artist Brian Major, street performer Sand Northrup, mischievous trolls and zany physical theatre troupe BellaLuna.

For more information on Tourism Whistler’s summer programming go to www.mywhistler.com.

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