I spent the solstice at a music festival on Mayne Island and it turned out to be a very nice place to enjoy all those extra hours of sunlight. Campbell Bay Music Fest, a small, friendly event, takes place on the east side of Mayne, on the sprawling oceanside Iredale farm, which becomes concert venue and camp site over two nights in mid-June.
One reaches Mayne Island by either crossing the Georgia Strait from Vancouver or weaving through the Gulf Islands from Victoria, on a small ferry with an open air car deck. I did the latter, and spent the ride sprawled across the front seat of my car, bare feet hanging out the window to catch the cool breeze.
Festival-goers arrive in Village Bay and travel by car or bike or hitchhiking (commonplace and easy to do in the Gulf Islands) down tree lined roads, through a tiny town center (home to a surprisingly bountiful thrift store), and then up and down a few kilometres of windy little road, until hand written signs appear indicating you’ve arrived at Campbell Bay.
My group set up camp across the road from the music stage and our tents clustered around a communal sitting area shaded by a haphazardly hung tarp. Tents and cars half hidden by tall yellow grass surrounded us and beyond was the blue ocean and horizon layered with the silhouettes of other islands.
The beautiful weather kept the crowd in high spirits throughout the weekend. The nearby beach, just down hill from the campsite, was packed with sunbathers, the bravest stripping their clothes and swimming chilly naked laps in the cold water. Others lounged in the sculpted curves of sandstone coves lining the bay. At night the bay’s water sparked with phosphorescence, stirred into bright, glittering streams by kicking feet and splashing rocks.
Saturday morning performances take place at the Farmer’s Market, where locals sell driftwood sculptures and herbal potions and coffee comes in a mug straight out of someone’s kitchen cupboard, returned once the drinker has sipped their way through the market.
At the main stage, people reclined on blankets in the grass, eating food supplied by Mayne’s own Farm Gate Store, or sipping Hoyne beer, a brewery in nearby Victoria. While the music lineup seems to have roots in folk and bluegrass, the festival showcases a diverse array of genres, and performances I saw included an improvised set between a fiddle and electronic instruments, a rousing Iraqi folksong played on an oud, a rock-n-roll choir, and “psychedelic dub” praising the trippier side of the Gulf Island lifestyle, performed on the magical second stage set in the dark woods.
I’ve never been to a large scale music festival like Coachella or Sasquatch, and the size and vibe of Campbell Bay suit me so well, I’m not sure I ever will. The festival espouses the friendly, communal spirit of the Gulf Islands and there’s nothing so nice when you travel to feel as though you’re being welcomed into a home. With Campbell Bay taking place on the doorstep of the Iredale farm, I suppose in this case it’s exactly that.
Campbell Bay Music Fest occurs annually in mid-June. Tickets can be purchased onsite and there’s plenty of space for camping. Be sure to pack allergy medicine if you experience even the slightest hay fever! Regular ferries run from Tsawwassen (Vancouver) and Victoria on Vancouver Island to Mayne Island.