Ricardo Hubbs

Through A Different Lens: A Volunteer’s Perspective Into Shambhala Music Festival [OPINION]

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Dance Music Northwest or its leadership.

Shambhala Music Festival is a name that needs no introduction. For the last 20 years Shambhala evolved from the little festival that could to one of the reigning super powers in the west coast festival game. Boasting not only as one of the longest running festivals in Canada, it is also one of the only ones without a single corporate sponsor. All funding comes from ticket sales and the grounds where we gather every year, owned by Farmily founders, the Bundsch family.

One of the best things about Shambhala is the ability to get so involved, right out of the gate! They welcome all levels of experience, from the grizzled festival vet to the bright eyed first timer who wants to save some coin on their ticket and by getting involved. This usually brings together the best of the best, a real cohesive group of experienced workers and fresh minds waiting to be molded. It really creates a fun and interesting dynamic.

Working the festival changes your relationship with it. No longer are you free to exist outside of time constraints and schedules. Working at festivals is not for everyone, so really examine what festivals mean to you before committing to signing on for a position. If you’re the type of person who likes to live life on the edge and not pay attention to deadlines and times, that’s totally okay, but maybe festival work isn’t the avenue for you. Tickets may be expensive, but they do allow for a considerable amount more freedom.

Now, if you’ve read this far and still have an interest in working at festivals, it means we’re on the right track! Working Shambhala is an incredible experience, and it makes you really appreciate your spare time, especially if you’re on showtime volunteering.

If you’re lucky enough to score a preshow position, count your lucky stars! That way you can get your shifts out of the way before the action really starts, and you still have the rest of the festival to enjoy yourself on your terms. Hold those near and dear, and if you get one, do well at it! Sometimes it means more work, but the payoff is so sweet!

Your shifts range anywhere from 8.5 hours (volunteer) to 12 hours (staff). The 12 hour outings usually come with three meals and pay, and are usually for supervisors and above. Working in the hot sun all day can be taxing, so always remember to bring some sort of shade with you, and always stock up with more water than you think you’d need. A parasol or umbrella is my go to.

Meals are provided, but always remember to bring a quick snack for between meals to keep your energy up.  A key tip: bring extras and make friends with your coworkers. You’ll be with them all day, might as well raise some spirits!

As for positions, there are so many to choose from! All the departments hire from applications on the website, except for a couple. The stages, Artist Relations, and medical all hire externally, usually from volunteers from previous teams that transferred over. These positions usually consist of steady festival goers who know their stuff and don’t need a lot of training. It’s always fun to get to this point!

When you finally finish your shifts, it’s important to enjoy yourself, but always remember to rest your body as well! Try and grab a quick cat nap before you hit the dance floor, especially if you were out in the hot sun all day.

Rule one, maintain, and that’s the gospel truth direct from the festival. Then put on those outfits, throw on some glitter, and I’ll see you in the Fractal Forest. Make sure to put away your staff tag. I know it looks cool, but if you wanna really let loose, a staff tag is a red flag to security and staff alike, so just throw it under your shirt!

Last, but not least, if you don’t end up volunteering or you can’t seem to work with your position, don’t feel discouraged. Not everyone has the temperament for this type of work. I’s high energy, high octane work, and that’s not what some people seek from festivals. There is a place for everyone somewhere, you just have to find it. Happy Shambhala!

What were some of your favorite moments from this year’s Shambhala? Have you ever worked as a volunteer? Share your experiences in the comments below!

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Dance Music Northwest or its leadership.

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