British Columbia

B.C. festivals, fairs and community events get $30M funding boost from province

B.C.'s Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport announced a new set of supports for festivals, fairs and community events Thursday, to offset rising operational costs and help with post-pandemic recovery.

Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport encourages British Columbians to support live events

A crowd of people raise their hands at a music festival.
Organizers of the Rockin' River Fest in Merritt, B.C. said they were cancelling the festival for 2023, but the event may be eligible for a grant as part of a $30M fund announced by the provincial tourism ministry on Thursday. (Rockin' River Music Fest)

British Columbia announced a new set of supports for festivals, fairs and community events Thursday, which it hopes will help offset rising operational costs and help with post-pandemic recovery.

Lana Popham, B.C.'s minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport, said a new injection into the British Columbia Festivals, Fairs and Events Fund (BCFFE), created in 2021 to help events safely return after COVID-19, is offering $30 million in one-time grants to eligible events.

The funding can cover as much as 20 per cent of an event's total budget, up to a maximum of $250,000, and organizations that put on multiple, separate events are eligible for up to $500,000.

"Applications for this fund are open now, and will be accepted until March 3," said Popham.

"It's a quick turnaround because we want to get the money out the door."

B.C.'s tourism minister stand behind a podium that reads "Stronger BC." She has blonde hair and is wearing glasses.
Lana Popham, British Columbia's Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, speaks at Vancouver's PNE on Thursday where she announced a new $30M fund for fairs, festivals and community events across the province. (James Mulleder/CBC)

The support can be used for operational costs, health and safety measures, venue rentals, hiring and paying staff, and expenses for marketing and promotion.

Popham said the money will be available to existing events based in B.C. that have hosted previous editions and are hoping to continue.

Funding is available for events that are set to take place between April 1, 2023 and Dec. 31, 2024, including sporting events, arts and culture events, community celebrations, agricultural fairs and rodeos.

'There's hope now': music festival president

Music festival organizers who returned to hosting in-person events after the pandemic said their expenses were higher than ever, and without outside help, some high-profile concert series said they would have to shut down.

Merritt, B.C.'s Rockin' River Festival and the Squamish Constellation Festival have both said a 2023 edition was either off the table completely or "highly unlikely".

The Vancouver Folk Festival Society initially planned a vote on dissolving, but later said an outpouring of support from the community after sharing its dire financial situation could potentially save the festival.

Speaking after Thursday's announcement, Mark Zuberbuhler, president of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society, said he was "flabbergasted." He said it was exciting news for organizers and audience members alike.

"There's hope now," he said, explaining that while the folk festival still hasn't secured a venue or booked any artists for 2023, the government commitment combined with support offered by the community has organizers reassured the event will go ahead.

"This announcement puts us on a positive path. And we will work very, very hard to make that happen."

Funding 'critical' for events

In a statement from the province, Cara Haughton, board director for the Kamloops Exhibition Association and a committee member of the Provincial Winter Fair said B.C. fairs have a lot to offer in terms of entertainment and education — especially for families — and she hopes the money will help make them more sustainable.

"This funding is critical in supporting rural and urban events, both large and small," said Haughton.

Before Thursday's announcement, Neil Osborne and his daughter Kandle kicked things off with a musical performance, playing One Day in Your Life and Ocean Pearl — a couple of classics from Osborne's Tsawwassen-based band 54-40.


Josh Grant is a CBC News reporter based in Vancouver, British Columbia. He previously worked for CBC in Montreal and Quebec City and for the Nation magazine serving the Cree communities of Northern Quebec. You can reach him at

With files from Zahra Premji


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