Over the past two years, did you ever look up to the sky and feel the vastness of the universe, appreciate its beauty, then make a wish for things to return to normal? Well, the stars have answered! 2022 is seeing the return of gatherings, concerts and events and it’s safe to say that everyone is excited about it. None more excited than the team at Constellation Festival, who, after a successful launch in 2019 have had to postpone their arts and music festival for the past two years.
Squamish locals Kirsten Andrews, Tamara Stanners, and Patricia Heintzman are over the moon to welcome everyone to the 2nd annual Squamish Constellation Festival this July 22nd to 24th at Hendrickson Field in Squamish. If you didn’t make it in 2019, the experience is a collection of music, art, and community. It is three music-filled days featuring 40 acts of multiple genres, art installations, roving entertainers, food vendors – even BC’s first-ever ‘weed garden’!
We had a chance to sit down with the festival founders and organizers to find out what’s in store for this summer.
Dear Rouge playing the Constellation Festival in 2019
Photo by Malcolm Yates
The inaugural Constellation Festival was in 2019. When you reflect on it, how does it make you feel?
Kristen Andrews (KA)- The first Constellation Festival feels worlds away and it also feels like yesterday. It all seems like a dream. We each had visions of bringing a community music and art festival to Squamish after 2015, and when I look back on what we accomplished, my heart swells knowing all our hard work and effort was worth it.
Tamara Stanners (TA)- So many feelings…joy, pride, love, exhaustion. It was truly beautiful to see our Constellation Festival dream come true.
What is your best memory from the 2019 festival?
KA - Standing side stage at the end of the night on Sunday, watching Bahamas, with Tamara by my side looking out into the audience and knowing we had created exactly what we had set out to do – bring a mind-blowing, heart-opening, zero-waste festival of music and art to our beloved community of Squamish. It was clean, family-friendly, safe, organized and an exceptional experience! It was a total magic, "pinch me" moment.
TS - Looking out at the festival grounds from the main stage after Serena Ryder played on the Friday night. An incredulous stage crew member asked, “Where are we? There is no garbage!”. Which was true - our amazing festival crowd cleaned up everything. Also watching Bahamas on Sunday from side stage alongside Kirsten. We could see the audience and their joy-filled faces.
What has been like waiting to hold your 2nd festival?
KA - At times we wondered if we were ever going to be able to host another festival – if they would ever be possible again. When we started to understand pandemic ‘lifecycles’ better we doubled down on everything: our optimism, our dreams, our desire to be able to bring something beautiful to the community that would unite us when we got to a place of being able to live with COVID. That is essentially the ethos of Constellation: together we shine brighter.
Practically speaking our challenges were immense. Our organization underwent significant changes in partnership, but Tamara and I weathered the storm, continuing to build relationships with vendors and doing our best to make monthly payments without any revenue coming in. We also were extremely fortunate to bring former Squamish mayor Patricia Heintzman on as a third partner. Patty has always been behind us and cheering us on from the sidelines, but to have her incredible skill, connections, and overall enthusiasm for the festival, we really feel that Constellation finally has the leadership team it needed.
TA- To not be able to go ahead with the 2020 festival was devastating. We had an amazing line-up and vision, but then we had to fully hit pause. There was so much uncertainty at the end of 2020, we knew that planning a 2021 festival was risky. So, we decided to wait and watch. Having that time ended up being scary, but also a godsend. We were able to get the amazing Patricia on the team. We had to redesign the whole business and rebuild what we feel is now an even stronger foundation.
Patricia Heinztman (PH) – We’ve been holding our Little Dipper Concert Series over the past 5 months and there has been a palpable love and appreciation for what we are trying to do. It has been the lifeline we’ve needed to persevere. It’s helped us know that what we’re doing is true and important and purposeful, not just for us but for many more people who need art, music, inspiration, and human connection.
In the downtime between festivals, what have you been up to?
KA- Raising two incredible teenagers, dreaming of summer, and imagining those moments side-stage with my partners watching our headliners give us performances like Squamish has never seen! Those moments of manifestation really get us to the finish line. We have been working hard, alongside the Canadian Live Music Association to lobby the federal and provincial governments to make allowances and provide funding and overall support to the live music sector, which is indeed the hardest hit.
TS – It’s been surprisingly busy! I’ve been taking time to enjoy my family but working on the festival never really stopped. We, along with an incredible group of festival producers from around BC, helped found the BCMFC - BC Music Festival Collective. Instead of competing, we started working together to help each other navigate the uncertainty of our business.
As the sun goes down the lights come up on the Constellation Main Stage.
Are there any big changes to the 2022 festival?
KA- We plan to have a festival that is bigger and better than before – yet still right-sized for our community. We plan to find the sweet spot somewhere between 12-15,000 people a day. We are excited to announce on-site camping for a very limited number of guests, as well as on-site parking. We want to make this festival easy and fun for everyone.
What can people expect at the 2022 festival?
KA- A weekend filled with love, music, art and so much connection! We are building out as many experiential opportunities as possible. You can choose to relax and just soak everything in but if you wish to go big, you can roll up your sleeves and dig in! Get creative. Paint, dance, eat and enjoy your favourite beverages. There will be over 20 food vendors, a marketplace with exceptional artisans and makers, and really fun activities – that we are still planning – to take part in. We are bringing back the best operational aspects of the 2019 festival, too: We achieved a 94% diversion rate for waste and were the first zero-waste festival of our size in BC; we also brought BC's first "weed garden" and a site-wide liquor license! We will continue to work closely with Good Night Out to provide a safe space for all our guests.
What are you most excited about?
KA- Connecting with new and old friends, lots of hugs, and moments experiencing some of the best music in the world right here in Squamish.
TS- I am most excited to see the beaming faces of all of the beautiful people who make it the festival as they revel in the joy that live music, connection and positivity makes. It’s more than an incredible sight, it’s a powerful, rejuvenating energy that will linger long after Sarah McLachlan plays her last song. My heart gets full just envisioning it.
Sarah McLachlan headlines the the return of the Squamish Constellation Festival on Sunday evening, July 24, 2022.
On April 5th the team at Constellation Festival announced an impressive line-up of music including headliners Sarah McLachlan, July Talk and Black Pumas [On July 19th, the Black Pumas have been replaced by The New Pornographers]. Other notable artists in attendance include Dear Rouge, Lights, Whitehorse, Jarvis Church and many more.
Amazing music? Check. Yummy food? Yup. Inspiring art? You bet. An outpouring of exciting energy to be back at a spectacular exhibition of all the things we’ve been missing? Absolutely.
As Patricia puts it, “We love our celestial metaphors at Constellation Festival because they truly mean something to all of us involved. Everyone is a star in our constellation, everyone is connected and included and shines brightly. This is not a cliche to us but something we profoundly believe in, a mantra to live by.”
You could say it was written in the stars.