Emulating the enormous South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, and its many venues, The Big Time Out in Cumberland evolved during the weekend.
After focusing on Village Park for years, then moving last year to Ash Berry Farm in Royston, TBTO returned to the village this year – with a twist.
Village Park again had the main stage and was the primary venue, but organizers consciously tried to include downtown Cumberland in this year’s festivities.
With eight venues of self-described “music, dance, art and circus antics,” they succeeded.
The Waverley, Cumberland and King George hotels featured soul, reggae, rock, bluegrass, burlesque, folk, pole dancing and other attractions. Local visiting DJs spun their spells in the Pyramid Lounge at the Cumberland Recreation Institute.
The Sanctuary Tipi featured dance, the Corre Alice Gallery offered art and the King George meeting room presented puppetry and a video.
The real wild card of the festival was the activity in the streets, particularly Dunsmuir Avenue. Locals and visitors couldn’t miss hula hoops, stilters, twirlers and circus arts as well as kids’ activities.
The festival, at least during the day, was very much family-oriented. The children came, they saw, they had fun.
One thing that helped families to celebrate with their children was moving alcohol out of the park and into the pubs, where professionals are used to serving it and dealing with patrons.
That can’t hurt with nearby residents, the RCMP and Cumberland council.
Spreading things out likely kept the crowds smaller at the main stage, but more than in previous years people really roamed around and saw more than Village Park and the campground.
Dunsmuir merchants seemed to do some good business, which is important these days when business, especially small business, needs all the help it can get.
Festival organizers seem to be onto something by decentralizing activities.