The 11th annual Desert Daze Festival in Spences Bridge, scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 7, will be taking on a different look and format for 2020. (Photo credit: Facebook)

Desert Daze festival going ahead with virtual concert experience

Festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary with online concert featuring 10 local musical acts

When Jan Schmitz took on the role of director of the Desert Daze organizing committee in the fall of 2019, he had no way of knowing that the Spences Bridge festival’s 10th anniversary celebration in 2020 would be very different to what was originally planned.

“When I got this job last fall after Desert Daze 2019, I was planning on organizing a live festival,” says Schmitz. “It’s just my luck to be trying to steer the ship through this mess [of the pandemic]. But it’s been good. It’s forced us all to think outside the box.”

The “Best Little Fest in the West” traditionally takes place on the second weekend of August, and as the pandemic began shutting down events in spring 2020 the committee waited to see if things would be eased by August.

“We realized on April 20 that the festival wasn’t going to happen this year,” says Schmitz. “Up to that point, like many other festivals we held off on cancelling, holding our breath, because the festival wasn’t until August and we hoped that by that time things would be back to normal enough to hold some kind of live festival.

“But when Dr. Bonnie Henry said that all public events would be cancelled until the fall of 2020, if not longer, we said so much for that, and asked ourselves if we wanted to take this summer off.”

However, Schmitz was talking with a friend of his — Gareth Smart of the HUB Online Network — who asked “Why don’t we take videos of some of the musicians?”

A light went on, and the result was the idea for a musical journey through the looking glass of spectacular Spences Bridge. After some discussion, it was decided that to celebrate 10 years of the festival, there would be 10 shows featuring 10 local artists, filmed at 10 iconic locations in and around Spences Bridge, which would be edited together into a concert showcasing the area’s rich musical talent and the beauty of Spences Bridge.

The concert is being described as a “virtual-digital video-festival”, and Schmitz says that it’s a model other live music festivals have subsequently embraced. “We’ve seen other festivals, like Roots and Blues, doing this sort of thing, so we were ahead of the curve.

“Desert Daze has always recognized that we have a lot of fine musical talent in Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Spences Bridge, and the entire region,” he continues. “Lots of musicians have been really hard hit by COVID-19, and we felt we had an ethical reason to help artists in the local community. We looked for musicians who have been with us before, and a few others who we thought would be a good fit for us.”

Schmitz adds that committee member Steve Rice is always promoting Spences Bridge. “Steve has seen how it’s been affected by the opening of the Coquihalla and the economic changes of the last few years. The festival quadruples the population of the community, and not many places can say that.”

The next question was deciding which locations would be used for filming. “We asked ourselves ‘What’s interesting here?’” The result was a list of 10 spots around town, including Murray Creek Falls, the arbour at Cook’s Ferry Band, Hilltop Gardens, the Lookout, the home of pioneering anthropologist James Teit, and the Packing House, where Widow Smith’s apples were packed up to be sent around the world.

“There’s been a bit of a formula matching artists with the sites,” says Schmitz. “We have to look at things like the availability of power at the site, the size of the site, and access. At Murray Creek Falls we have to use battery-operated equipment, so there’ll be one person with a guitar, but the arbour has power, so we can film a full band with lighting, like a concert.”

Each performance will be filmed separately, then edited and compiled by the HUB Online Network. “We’re looking at six hours of video at least,” says Schmitz of the event. “There’ll be little vignettes of all the locations we’re filming at, with a bit of history and information about each site, and then we’ll go into the music. The HUB Online Network will be doing a multi-camera shoot, with five or six cameras depending on the size of the group, and coordinating with Paul Cuthbert, our sound guy, so the sound will be optimized for digital recording.”

The concert will launch on the weekend of Aug. 7, when the festival should have been taking place. “More information will be coming, and we’ll be doing regular updates,” says Schmitz. “Right now we’re still working primarily on signing contracts, and pairing musicians with locations.” Check out the Desert Daze Music Festival Facebook page and website ( for news and announcements.

The concert will showcase to the world just how special Spences Bridge, and the entire region, really is, says Schmitz.

“At first we were bummed by the idea of having to shut the festival, but this gave us the chance to think about presenting it in a unique format. It allows us not only to give respect to, and honour, the musicians who’ve helped us, but also show how wonderful a small village like Spences Bridge can be. It’s a challenge that got us thinking of new ways to present the culture that we can provide to our region and to the world.

“Desert Daze is a showcase of how wonderful a place rural B.C. is, and this gives us a chance to show that off.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Interior Health records 21 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Thirty-six cases remain active; two people are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care

Advance voting has now started in polling places throughout the Fraser-Nicola riding. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Advance voting now open in Fraser-Nicola

Advance voting runs from Oct. 15 to Oct. 21 in B.C.’s election

Honour House Society founder and President Allan De Genova (l) and Robert Parkinson, Health and Wellness Director, Ambulance Paramedics of BC and Director, Honour House Society, at the opening of Honour Ranch near Ashcroft, Oct. 5, 2019. Photo credit: Barbara Roden
Honour Ranch makes use of ‘down time’ to complete essential work

Unable to run programs because of COVID-19, volunteers made the site ready for year-round use

Historic Ashcroft sign, date unknown. (Photo credit: Wendy Coomber)
Restaurant patio licences extended in Ashcroft for another year

Council decision enables establishments to keep outdoor patios through October 2021

Seventh-Day Adventist Church Pastor Charles Lomudak (l) with Daniel Collett and Marina Papais (r of sign), Gary Dost (third from r), Gwen and Katie Henderson (4th and 5th from r), and congregants with the church’s new sign. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
New mosaic at Ashcroft church labour of love for congregants

Seventh-Day Adventist Church worked with local artists to design, create new sign

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read