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Viruses and volcanoes: Pacific Northwest Music Festival returns against all odds

After three years of waiting, Terrace’s Pacific Northwest Music Festival is at full capacity
Flautists, at the Pacific Northwest Music Festival, on April 20, 2023, at Knox United Church in Terrace. (Staff photo)

The Pacific Northwest Music Festival is back in full swing in Terrace for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The event, which offers performers young and old a chance to share their talents and receive feedback, faced challenges this year, including a Russian volcano eruption on April 13 that sent ash into the atmosphere, disrupting air travel and the arrival of festival judges for the festival’s first day of April 14.

“It’s kind of funny, I mean aside from the volcano incident, at first, that was a sort of like a ‘are you kidding me?,” said festival president Kelly Lima.

“First COVID and now it was like, are we really meant to do this, but then of course the skies opened and it really was meant to be.”

The festival shut down entirely in 2020 at the outset of the pandemic, while in 2021 and 2022, it functioned at a quarter of its normal capacity.

There were no group performances and strict health and safety measures in place. This year, however, the festival has seen nearly 1,600 entries and the return of including dance groups and school bands.

READ MORE: Russian volcanic eruption disrupts flights to and from Northwest B.C.

READ MORE: Pacific Northwest Music Festival returns for 56th year

The enthusiasm of the young performers is a highlight for Lima, who said, “the best part for me is seeing the enthusiasm of the kids again, and all of them just really so excited to get back on the stage.”

The festival has been able to return thanks to the support of more than 100 volunteers and local businesses. Lima expressed gratitude to the community, saying, “We couldn’t host a big event with full capacity in the theatre before until now, and we could never exist without our volunteers.”

The event not only boosts tourism in Terrace but also serves as a reminder of the importance of the arts in a fast-paced world.

Lima, a musician herself, believes that while doctors can cure the body, music cures the soul, and there’s nothing like the connection between artists and audiences when they’re together in person.

The Pacific Northwest Music Festival, which began April 14 and lasts until April 29, hosts its scholarship event on Friday, April 28 and the ever-popular gala evening on Saturday, April 29. Both take place at the R.E.M. Lee Theatre.