A Family-Friendly Festival in Starbelly Jam

Starbelly Jam

You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy... That could be said for a lot of music festivals, or space ports.

Starbelly Jam is not that kind of space port.

by Jensen Shields

Crawford bay is home to a lot of things; a thriving artisan community, natural beauty and a music festival that breaks all the rules. I've been to a few festivals over more than a decade. Shambhala, the largest EDM festival in western Canada three times. Burning Man once. Disorganized concerts in the park organized by the city of Vancouver? I lost count. 

All of these festivals, save Burning Man, share something in common. I would never bring my kids to them.

Starbelly is different though. Upon arrival I saw children. Everywhere. I'm not just talking about grown adults covered in face paint and colourful sarongs, I'm talking about toddlers, infants, tweens and teenagers frolicking about with a few guardians keeping watch. Laughter and music fill the air in this safe space for musicians, kids and total goofballs such as myself.

Money Dragon playing the second last set on Saturday night... with brass for support. What a treat!


Where: Crawford bay, BC.

Budget: 2 adults with some mouths to feed and tickets... $600  (Kids under 12 attend for free)

Ages: All ages

When: (2020-TBA) late July. 

What to bring: Cash for food trucks and vendors, camping gear, sunscreen/bug spray, glow sticks (to mark your campsite and for fun).

Family fun aside, what exactly is Starbelly Jam? 

The festival features live acts, bands, DJs and story tellers. It's a real mixed bag that caters to a wide audience. The contrast between the 2019 Saturday headliner Snotty Nose Rez Kids and the group ukulele jam session is pretty extreme. But that's what this festival is all about. A wide range of choices and activities including yoga sessions, craft workshops and puppetry. Yes, puppets. Don't worry they aren't the creepy kind of puppets.

The whole event takes place in a central location in the middle of Crawford Bay. Starbelly makes good use of three stages and open spaces to share the area in accordance to its busy schedule. No, BC/DC will not be blasting your favorite tunes in the middle of a meditation practice. For this reason, guests can participate in almost everything and keep an eye on what's coming next without getting lost in the fray.

Here's a link the the entire 2019 schedule to get a glimpse of the experience.

Okay. Truth. I wasn't there for the whole thing. 

I'm picky when it comes to music and especially festivals. When it comes to big crowds and committing a whole weekend to an event that I've never even heard of, it's scary stuff. Luckily for me they sold day passes for roughly $80. Saturday was my day. Next year I'm attending the whole weekend for sure.

I was lucky enough to talk to one of the event organizers, Farley Cursons, thanks to Jesse who both volunteered at the festival and let me camp with him. 

Farley, who's been with Starbelly long enough to see it grow, shrink and then grow again, does a good good encapsulating what the whole experience is all about.

"I'm a co-producer of this festival. there's about 5 or 6 of us who work all year round. But I'm an operations manager, sort of making the rubber hit the road. I can't take credit because we have an amazing team, and volunteers which is huge for this kinda thing."

Farley goes on to describe the team effort and amazing visions that bring the whole thing together.

"For 20 years we're been lucky. A lot of the founders are still here and participate, but they're also able to step back and let the younger generation take the lead. The culture of the Kootenays has changed. When this festival started it was more of a tree-planter festival in a lot of ways. A lot of things started happening, Jimmy Holland has his amazing Jazz Festival in Kaslo and the rave seen was just starting... there that little ranch on the Salmo river."

He is of course referring to Shambhala, Western Canada's largest EDM festival that lasts almost 5 days including early access. Here's a link to it!

These two festivals are worlds apart in terms of size, energy and budget. However, Farley says they do share things in common.

"Festival sustainability, and it's not just about the environment. You create an organization within itself is sustainable. You have a vision and a mission and how you want to get to them, it's very important. The East Shore (of Kootenay Lake) is pretty isolated and we went through this renaissance of the 90's, with Nelson and communities. Now we are trying to preserve that, preserve that vibe."

It isn't just about Starbelly for Farley. He says he's a fourth generation local who's seen the ebb and flow of people settling and then leaving and moving back with their families. Ultimately the region is growing and has lots to offer. Small and bucolic Crawford bay is only a hop skip and a jump from Nelson, where property values are at Vancouver levels. Many, including Farley are starting to flock to more affordable communities and they're bringing their craftsmanship and artistry with them.

Case and point: The Artisans of Crawford Bay.

There plenty of festivals in the Southern Kootenays during the summer and lots of music to heard.

If you can't make it to Starbelly for whatever reason but you want to share an audience with Sasquatch? Check out this list of awesomeness.

Battle of the Bands This 2 day musical extravaganza will only be in its second year by 2020. Musicians from all over the Kootenays come to Creston to compete and play if front of an adoring crowd at Millennium Park.

The 3-EH stage at the Ramada in Creston. Shows on the weekends including larger than life cover bands.

Shambhala Don't bring your kids. This if for those who want to have a party to NEVER write home about. You'll have many stories to tell and new friends to ignore on Facebook. Be SAFE.

Kaslo Jazz Festival More than Jazz. This festival is right on the water and features a diverse range on music to fill your bucket.

What did I miss? I'm new to the area so let me know! Join our Facebook page by scrolling up and clicking the link to leave us a comment. I'll see you by the stage!