Melanie Chesnutt (right) and her daughter Maya get into the festival spirit with some hand-made masks at the Robson Valley Music Festival.

Melanie Chesnutt (right) and her daughter Maya get into the festival spirit with some hand-made masks at the Robson Valley Music Festival.

Advice for MoM

Organizers of the successful Robson Valley Music Fest offer some insight into making a successful festival.



Last weekend was the seventh year of one of the most talked-about music festivals in north-central B.C..

Four women from Fort St. James made the trip with kids in tow to take part in the event and see some great live music, and warm up for our very own fledgling Music on the Mountain festival taking place August 26-28 at the Murray Ridge Ski Hill.

To get an idea of what a small town festival like the Robson Valley event takes, and what our own community and festival can learn from their years of blood, sweat and tears, The Courier asked a few questions of Robson Valley organizer Shara Gustafson.

Gustafson and her partner Seth Macdonald host and coordinate the Robson Valley event, as well as being the dynamic duo who front the amazing live band Mamaguroove, a unique band of multiple styles and influences, which also spends a lot of the summer touring some of the other B.C. music festivals. Here’s what this grooving mama had to say:

You’ve been doing this festival since 2005, starting with a family gathering-turned festival, what gave you the idea to start the festival, and what keeps you doing it?

All for the love of music and bringing people together.  What keeps us doing it, is pure insanity and the smiles on people’s faces.

How do you manage to tour with Mamaguroove to other festivals during the summer AND organize such a big event?

This is where the insanity comes in. It is a crazy summer for us touring as well as locking down for two to three weeks of 12 hour days getting ready for the festival in August, but somehow you just make it happen. It is like having a baby: You gestate for 11 months, growing the event, and then labour intensively for a couple weeks and give birth to the event itself, quickly forgetting how much work it was because there you are experiencing such an incredible time.

What do you think your festival brings to the community of Dunster, and what feedback have you gotten on the festival from the local community, good or bad?

Our community at large has been very supportive, and it is the single most revenue-generating event for our side of the valley.  More and more locals come every year as they realize it isn’t actually a “hippy fest.” They are realizing that we are professional at what we are doing, that our music lineup is stellar and represents music of all genres. The only possible negative feedback, would be we need more country music. We have thought about doing a country/western themed festival in May to utilize our infrastructure here that is only used  three days out of a year. This would go over really well here.

How many people and how much work does it take to put on a festival the size of yours now?

We have an attendance of anywhere from 800 -1,300 people attending, this could jump exponentially with excellent weather, which we haven’t had yet. We started out with less than 300 the first year. We have a core group of about seven people, and about 70 -80 volunteers.

What advice do you have for a new festival like Music on the Mountain? Did you have any mistakes you learned from in your early years?

Starting out small with your budget is good advice. Advertising, getting the name out there, being proffessional, thanking people constantly, appreciating your crew, and enjoying the fruits of your labour!


Mamaguroove played at Friday night on the A stage of Music on the Mountain, and Seth and Shara played their own set on Sunday afternoon.