Desert Daze now providing on-site tenting for festival-goers


The Desert Daze Festival takes place in Spences Bridge on September 9-10, and the organizers have added something new this year: on-site camping for festival-goers.

“We’ve been asked about it by a lot of people in the past, but we haven’t made the big leap up to now,” says festival organizer Jan Schmitz. He explains that Spences Bridge has limited accommodation and this year most of the available rooms are occupied by crews working to restore Highway 8 between Spences Bridge and Merritt after last year’s flooding.

“We have limited availability anyway, and now we have even less.”

The festival takes place on the site of the Spences Bridge Improvement District Building, which was formerly the primary school. The actual festival site only occupies part of the former playing fields, which have suffered from a broken irrigation system in recent years.

“An early concern about allowing camping destroyed the field but we are not as concerned now as changes are to come at the site. The festival site itself and the area around the building have new sprinklers to make it look nice and green.”

The lack of accommodation was one reason for the decision to camp on the site. Another reason was to make the event safer by keeping people off the freeways after partying.

“It’s much more convenient for people,” says Schmitz. “And since Highway 8 is out of service, it’s a long drive to Spences Bridge for the people of Merritt. That gives them a place to camp.”

Planned are about 20 20′ x 20′ sites and about 10 more 20′ x 40′ sites. Pages are only for people purchasing tickets to the event and can be reserved on the Desert Daze website ( Volunteers will stake out locations a few days before the event based on the advance request, although Schmitz says people can also register for a location at the gate, with pre-registered campers getting first spots.

“We don’t sell tickets in advance, but people can buy them at the door and pay for their campsite at the same time.”

The pitches will accommodate RVs, RVs and tents, but Schmitz warns they must be self-contained as there are no water, sewer or electricity hookups and no generators are allowed.

“There will be porta-potty and hand-washing stations on the premises, but no great amenities, nothing too luxurious.” Schmitz adds that no pets will be allowed and there will be no campfires; The Kamloops Fire Center recently imposed a campfire ban on all public and private properties in its jurisdiction, which includes the Spences Bridge.

For a more luxurious Spences Bridge camping experience, he adds that the Acacia Grove campground has washrooms, showers, and shade “for when people don’t like it.”

Schmitz says this new addition to the festival will be a learning curve for the volunteers and will mean a lot more legwork.

“We need volunteers to set up the campsite and take care of security. There will be some growing pains. But it gives people shelter and people like to camp, so we’ll see how much interest we get.”

Desert Daze regulars will notice some other minor changes to the event. The stage will be repositioned to angle it away from the school building so the sound doesn’t bounce off it and people can see what’s going on from the freeway. There will be a bigger, better light and sound system, and the beer garden will be renamed the Bighorn Lounge; as Schmitz explains, “It sells more than beer, and it wasn’t really a garden.”

He adds that the committee is still looking for volunteers and people who want to lead workshops. There’s room for more vendors, too, and Schmitz says there aren’t really any limitations. “We don’t want five retailers selling all the cheeseburgers, but we’re open to anything.”

Volunteers have free entry to the event. Visit the Desert Daze website for more information about volunteering, workshops or the opportunity to become a vendor, more about this year’s music program, and camping and festival fees.

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Spences Bridge