Rockin' River country music festival returns to Merritt

·2 min read
Rockin' River Music Fest returns to Merritt, B.C., this weekend after a three-year pandemic hiatus. (Rockin' River Music Fest - image credit)
Rockin' River Music Fest returns to Merritt, B.C., this weekend after a three-year pandemic hiatus. (Rockin' River Music Fest - image credit)

The Rockin' River Music Fest has returned to Merritt, B.C., after a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The concert grounds will look a bit different after flooding in the region last November, but organizer Kenny Hess told CBC's Daybreak Kamloops the festival, which has become a tradition much like the Merritt Mountain Music Festival was in years past, will be welcomed by local music fans.

"There's a lot of people there that I think ... have missed music as much as we have," he said.

The event at the Moon Shadows campground on Neilson Street near the Coldwater River began on Thursday and runs until Sunday. Headliners include American performers Tim McGraw and Darius Rucker.

Hess said new campsites were created after one of the festival's main campsites was damaged by flooding. In addition, one of the festival stages was swept away.

The music festival started in 2008 at Mission Raceway Park as the Lower Mainland's biggest outdoor country music event. After relocating to Merritt in 2015, it became a four-day event running over the B.C. Day long weekend, attracting thousands of music fans from the Nicola Valley and beyond.

"It's a great place for all the people to get together and meet friends," said Hess, who will also perform at the event. "We're glad that it didn't get quashed by the pandemic."

River near the performance site cools off heat

The four-day party happens at a time when Merritt, like other parts of B.C., is under a heat warning, with daytime temperatures reaching as high as 38 C.

Hess says there are misting machines across the performance site and — of course — the nearby Coldwater River for people to cool themselves off.

"The river is a great air conditioner, there's no question," he said.

Rockin' River Music Fest
Rockin' River Music Fest

He also reminds people from outside Merritt who may not know what the city's weather looks like.

"Merritt is jammed in between the mountains, so it cools down at night," he said. "Once you've been in the heat all day, it's that cold [that] hits you like a ton of bricks."

Mayor Linda Brown says the music fest is a "sorely needed" event that brings in not only tourists, but also the celebratory atmosphere that was absent during the pandemic.

"We have to put up with streets that can barely handle the traffic sometimes, but … we adjust and we welcome them with open arms.

"Bring your money … and be kind to our residents as well," Brown said.

Brown also says she hopes the 108 families who still cannot return home after the fires and floods that impacted Merritt last year will be able to celebrate the music fest in some way.

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