The Desert Daze Festival is coming up in Spences Bridge on Sept. 9–10, and organizers have added something new this year: on-site camping for festival-goers.
“We’ve had lots of people ask about it in the past, but we didn’t make the big jump until now,” says festival organizer Jan Schmitz. He explains that there is limited accommodation in Spences Bridge, and this year the available rooms are largely occupied by the crews working to restore Highway 8 between Spences Bridge and Merritt following last year’s flooding.
“We have limited availability anyway, and now we have even less.”
The festival is held in the grounds of the Spences Bridge Improvement District Building, which used to be the elementary school. The actual festival site only occupies a portion of the former playing fields, which have suffered over the last few years because of a broken irrigation system.
“An early concern about allowing camping was wrecking the field, but we’re not so concerned now, as changes will be coming to the grounds. The festival ground itself, and the area around the building, has new sprinklers, so that will look nice and green.”
Lack of accommodation was one reason behind the decision to allow camping at the site. Another was keeping the event safer by keeping people off the highways after they’ve been celebrating.
“It’s a lot more convenient for people,” says Schmitz. “And with Highway 8 being out of commission, it makes it a long road trip to Spences Bridge for people from Merritt. This gives them a spot to camp.”
The plan is to have about 20 sites measuring 20’ x 20’, and another 10 or so measuring 20’ x 40’. The sites are only for people who are purchasing tickets for the event, and can be reserved at the Desert Daze website (www.desertdaze.ca). Volunteers will stake out the sites a few days before the event based on the advance demand, although Schmitz says people can also register for a site at the gate, with pre-registered campers getting first dibs.
“We don’t sell tickets in advance, but people can buy them at the door and pay for their camping at the same time.”
The sites will accommodate RVs, campers, and tents, but Schmitz warns that they have to be self-contained, as there are no water, sewer, or power hook-ups, and no generators are allowed.
“There will be porta-potties and handwash stations at the site, but no big amenities, nothing too luxurious.” Schmitz adds that pets are not allowed, and there will be no campfires; the Kamloops Fire Centre recently implemented a campfire ban on all public and private land within its jurisdiction, which includes Spences Bridge.
For a more luxurious camping experience in Spences Bridge, he adds that the Acacia Grove campsite has washrooms, showers, and shade, “if people aren’t into roughing it.”
Schmitz says that this new addition to the festival will be a learning curve for the volunteers, and mean a lot more legwork.
“We need volunteers to set up the campsite, and look after security. There will be some growing pains. But it gives people a place to stay, and people like to camp, so we’ll see how much interest we get.”
Desert Daze regulars will notice a few other, smaller, changes to the event. The stage will be re-oriented to angle it away from the school building so sound doesn’t bounce off it, and so that people from the highway can see what’s going on. There will be a bigger, better light and sound system, and the beer garden is being renamed the Bighorn Lounge; as Schmitz explains, “It sells more than beer, and it wasn’t really a garden.”
He adds that the committee is still looking for volunteers and people who want to lead workshops. There is also room for more vendors, and Schmitz says there are no real restrictions. “We don’t want five vendors all selling cheeseburgers, but we’re open for anything.”
Volunteers are eligible for free admission to the event. For more information about volunteering, workshops, or becoming a vendor, more about this year’s music line-up, and camping and festival fees, visit the Desert Daze website.