ValhallaFest, a music festival near Terrace, is returning for its fifth year with 42 musical acts pegged to perform across three stages over three days on June 23-25.
The festival’s focus is on electronic music, but it will also host an acoustic stage. Each year, the festival also hosts workshops, activities and performances that participants organize themselves in order to create community and contribute to the overall vibe of the festival.
“We had a bunch of activities in our Zen Dome, like painting classes for kids and journal burnings and somebody was doing aura readings,” said Erinn McPherson, the music director and one of the five original founders of the festival.
“We really encourage participants to host a workshop, if they want to. They can either sign up pre-festival or just post about it on our workshop board.”
So far this year, there are 15 different workshops and likely more as people sign up to host them at the event.
The current capacity is around 1,000 people in number, which has grown every year the event has been held. Organizers say 1,000 is a good number to stay at for a while, based on current infrastructure capacity of the grounds and the biggest challenge being the lack of washrooms on-site, but they are hoping to expand in the future. One of their main priorities right now is building more wheelchair-accessible infrastructure.
“It’s really easy to grow exponentially, and when you grow too fast there’s some pains that don’t necessarily get worked out, which is why we’re doing a very slow progression,” McPherson said. “That way we learn what those issues are and work on them before we do any more growth.”
The artistic theme of the festival is inspired by Norse mythology and many of the organizers have family roots in Scandinavia.
“My grandfather was actually a Norwegian fisherman,” said McPherson.
“The whole idea about Valhalla is that it’s meant to be a place that when you die in battle you can go and relax and live out your best life. And that’s what we hope for people. We’re always in a daily struggle so it’s nice to just be able to be free and enjoy ourselves.”
There are also many different art installations around the festival grounds. There are Norse runes carved into tree stumps, hammocks made out of old fishing nets, a giant sunflower, a giant battle axe, a giant chair and 17 normal-sized mannequins hidden throughout the woods.
“I think I’ve found eight, which means there’s another nine mannequins somewhere in the woods that I have not yet found, so that’s fun for me in the dark,” McPherson said.
In Norse mythology, Bifröst is a burning rainbow bridge connecting earth and the realm of the gods. Inside the festival grounds, there is a painted rainbow bridge behind the intricately crafted gates.
Even the names of the different campsites and stages tie into the mythos of the event, including Leif’s Beach, Freyja’s Garden and Lofn’s Guild.
The founders also took inspiration from Burning Man, a massive arts festival in the Nevada desert.
There are challenges in any festival, with the good comes the bad.
“Suffering is part of it,” said McPherson. “But we’re trying not to do the suffering part. Burning Man has dust, Valhalla Fest has mosquitoes.”
If anyone feels overwhelmed, there is a sensory refuge by the first aid tent.
While the festival is fully staffed for medical volunteers, organizers are currently looking for around another 20 volunteers to fill other roles.