Groovin' in Salmon Arm


Plan to be one of the 35,000 to attend the 26th annual Salmon Arm ROOTSandBLUES Festival, on the shore of Shuswap Lake 

Steve MacNaull

Alex Cuba's mirrored aviators glint neon green as he tilts his face toward the sun.

The Afro-Cuban jazz groove master has just launched into his hit Beautiful Mistake and the crowd at the Salmon Arm ROOTSandBLUES Festival is going wild.

"I can be your great escape. Be your beautiful mistake," sings the Latin Grammy and Juno winner as he strums his guitar and casts his glance back toward the dancing audience, which includes my wife, Kerry, and I.

Cuba was the headliner at the 25th anniversary edition of the music fest in August 2017. The 2018 festival features Michael Franti & Spearhead, Colin James, Cindy Church and more.

Get ready to dance in Salmon Arm. Plan your trip today...

But that doesn't mean he just performed as the much-anticipated closing act on the main stage on the Sunday night of the four-day extravaganza. In pure-fest fashion, he popped up in the daytime on three separate occasions on secondary stages to play in workshops with other artists that contrasted and complimented his Cuban-Canadianess.

Alex Cuba
Photo: Steve MacNaull

Afro-Cuban jazz groove master Alex Cuba was the headliner at the 25th annual Salmon Arm ROOTSandBLUES Festival in August 2017.

"I'm from the Latin capital of Canada – Smithers, British Columbia," said Cuba to much laughter before he embarks on his second tune, Directo.

That's what makes the Salmon Arm ROOTSandBLUES Festival so compelling. Year after year, a talented line up of musicians take to stages spanning the many genres covered under the catch-all roots and blues, from folk, country, bluegrass, boogie, soul and funk to Indigenous, gospel, jazz, Celtic and reggae.

The 26th annual Salmon Arm ROOTSandBLUES Festival will be Aug. 16 to 19, 2018.

Roots and Blues Salmon Arm
Photo: Steve MacNaull

Kenny 'Blues Boss' Wayne wowed the crowd with his gospel-boogie-woogie fusion.

Headliners include six-time Juno winner Colin James, blues rockers MonkeyJunk, electric blues singer/songwriter Big Dave McLean, country-jazz artist Cindy Church, accordion-playing singer/songwriter Geoff Berner, blues evangelist Harpdog Brown and the West African rhythms of David Thiaw.

The stages are alive from 10 a.m. to midnight with 40 acts, so you can get your dose during daylight, be a night owl, or both.

You can bring your kids and play in the Family Fun Zone; eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks at the food trucks; shop at the vendors selling everything from caftans and feathered boas to hats and jewelry; quench your thirst in the beer garden or wine lounge; and even meet artists post-performance for a chat and CD signing.

salmon arm roots and blues
Photo: Steve MacNaull

Elizabeth Rodriguez is the lead singer of the Cuban all-girl band Maqueque.

Attracting mostly baby boomers and generation Xers, ROOTSandBLUES is the fest for discerning music lovers.

It's family-friendly, not too loud or rowdy or crowded. You may get a whiff of pot, but certainly not be offered ecstasy. 

"It's all about chemistry," said festival artistic director Peter North. "There has to be a mix of new and established acts, ones you've heard before and ones you'll discover. The workshop matches are magic, and you generally just can't help but have a good time."

For instance, you've probably heard of 15-time Grammy winner and bluegrass prince Ricky Skaggs but not of the American-Mali fusion outfit Toubab Krewe.

Shuswap economic development officer Robyn Cyr puts a different spin on it.

"This festival is a huge economic boost for the community," she says to Kerry and me when we meet her in the wine lounge for Cuvee and Ortega from local wineries Celista and Edge of the Earth.

Houseboat Shuswap
Photo: Steve MacNaull

A houseboat is the perfect way to arrive at the Salmon Arm ROOTSandBLUES Festival. It can also be your floating hotel suite just a 15-minute walk away from the fest site.

"It really is the area's marquee event attracting 35,000 people a year. It's also the launch point to introduce people to the Shuswap as a tourist destination for houseboating, wine touring, dining, arts, fishing, hiking, biking and water sports."

Speaking of which, Kerry and I, our 15-year-old daughter, Grace, and her friend, Lauren, combined houseboating with the fest for an unforgettable summer experience. We picked up our luxury, five-bedroom, 60-foot-long vessel at Waterway Houseboats in Sicamous and sailed the 13 kilometres down the Salmon Arm section of Shuswap Lake to the town of Salmon Arm and docked at the community wharf.

The houseboat was our handy hotel suite, floating just a 15-minute walk from ROOTSandBLUES at the Salmon Arm Fair Grounds.

On the way back, we had time to stop in the middle of the lake for playtime, shooting out of the corkscrew waterslide off the back of the boat, jumping into the water from the top deck, swimming and soaking in the hot tub.

Fest facts

1. Affordable

Book early for the Aug. 16 to 19, 2018 fest and get a four-day pass for as little as $99.

During the fest an all-day ticket is $99, and a night-only admission is $79.

2. Eclectic

With 40 acts per fest there will be performers you know and others for you to discover, covering all genres from folk and funk to bluegrass and boogie.

3. Family-friendly

Bring your kids, bring your mom and dad. The fest caters to all with daytime activities for the kids and nighttime concerts.

4. Wine lounge

All fests have beer gardens, but in a nod to the Shuswap's status as an emerging viticulture hotspot there's a wine lounge featuring vino by the glass and daily tastings.

5. Location, location, location

Salmon Arm is the heart of the Shuswap, the incredible tourist region in British Columbia's beautiful Southern Interior, where you can complement your fest experience with waters sports and houseboating on Shuswap Lake, downtown dining, hiking, biking or wine touring.

More Information

Like Our Facebook Page