By Brandon Hoffman, Artistic Director, Arts on the Fly –

July 8, the day after the fires first broke out in Williams Lake, the biggest thing on my mind was the fate of Arts on the Fly Festival, slated for the following weekend. I went through the motions like everybody else: putting together my evacuation pack, turning off the gas, filling the tub and sinks, but it all felt kind of silly and overcautious. Like, sure it’s a good idea to do these little tasks just in case, but a personal defeat that could actually happen is the cancellation of this festival I’ve been organizing for the past year.

Musicians playing John Fogerty's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" at the benefit concert for Arts on the Fly in East Vancouver’s Wise Hall. Photo: Ana Alfieri.
Musicians playing John Fogerty’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” at the benefit concert for Arts on the Fly in East Vancouver’s Wise Hall. Photo: Ana Alfieri.

Then I heard the first close-call story of a friend almost losing their house, and our little festival seemed like the least important thing in the world. Of course, we had to cancel.

There were two things that caught me by surprise in the weeks to come. The first was the perpetual interplay between anxiety, grief, joy, and guilt. In the flickering moments when I did find reprieve from the chaos, a strange kind of euphoric joy would settle in, followed by guilt. It was like my brain chemistry decided I wasn’t deserving of any happiness whatsoever, when those I know and love are still scrambling to keep their lives in order. A healthy dose of distraction helped with that (mostly in the form of road trips and concerts).

The second thing I wasn’t expecting was the lengths average humans will go to for their friends, family, and even for total strangers. It was quite amazing seeing social media used to its full potential, helping people come together under stress. The ugly underbelly of Facebook definitely showed itself a few times, but the positive effects vastly overshadowed the negative.

After standing by as long as we possibly could, we emailed our artists and volunteers to officially cancel the festival. Almost immediately, Lydia Hol, a Vancouver performer who was slated to play the festival, included me in an email thread that had been going for a few days. I was worried that the festival society might tank if we had a line-up of artists demanding payment, but these fears were immediately thrown out the window. Lydia, as well as Steve Beddall from the Wooden Horsemen, Jasper Sloan Yip, and the lovely Jasmine Liddell of Vancouver’s Wise Hall, had already started organizing a benefit concert in our honour. Clearly, this was grounds for a road trip to Vancouver.

After an evening of amazing music, great friends, singing, laughing, dancing, and crying, over 300 people came down to East Vancouver’s Wise Hall, raising around $3,000.

Last week the festival society met for the first time since the outbreak, and we came to a decision about how to use the money. Two-thirds will be used to help offset some of the unrecoupable costs that come along with cancelling a festival, and one-third will be passed along to the Horsefly Community Club and the Horsefly Volunteer Fire Department.

The whole Arts on the Fly team would like to extend a huge thank you to the lovely and inspired humans who put this benefit together for us, and, of course, to everybody that planned on coming out to the fest. Refunds are available now. If you purchased tickets online, check your junk mail for a message from Brown Paper Tickets and follow the instructions. If you purchased tickets from The Bean Counter or Clarke’s General Store, stop by the Central Cariboo Arts Centre Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. to receive your refund. If you can’t claim your refund before September 11, email to make arrangements or your ticket cost will be considered a donation toward the 2018 festival.

Welp. See you at Arts on the Fly 2018!


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