Tiny Lights – The Best Little Festival That Did

The town of Ymir (pronounced “Why-Mer”) has always been small. It’s been around for 120 years but the current population is only 400. Except for the second weekend in June when the body count booms during the best little fest British Columbia has to offer.

The sun pours through a thin, tall window in a tiny church. The bright pink and tasseled cowboy hat of Vancouver singer/songwriter/comedian Shirley Gnome is barely discernible, backlit against the steep, bright green trees outside. Nestled on a couch in the corner, with a hundred or so others, I’m laughing uncontrollably to a song called “Vegan Semen.” I haven’t been to church in while, and this being Sunday and all, well, it feels good. Really good.

Country crooner Marin Patenaude entrancing the audience at the Church. Photo: Nick Waggoner.

But perhaps I’m a little on the sad side. Tiny Lights has been doing its folk, rock, alt music and entertainment thing in Ymir for a few years now. And while I’ve heard great things, it’s never lined up for me to attend. I now regret those lost years—if I only knew what I was missing—for this must be one of the neatest, most fun little festivals in all of creation.

With seven venues sprinkled through the town of barely 400, I spent the weekend snuggled into the School House, where I fell in love with the sweet duet of Pharis and Jason Romero, a country steeped banjo/guitar couple from Horsefly, BC. Their harmonies stand the hair up on the back of my neck.

With a sell out crowd of over 1,500 people over thee days, this is as busy as Ymir’s main street ever gets.

Wandering through the streets we catch bands like Carmanah, Peach Pit, and Scenic Road to Alaska. It’s hard to keep up, but what the festival does quite smartly is schedule each artist twice through the three days of the event. If you have a favourite, or hear of a great performance, chances are, you can weave it into your schedule.

I guess it’s the intimacy that struck me. Tiny venues with handfuls of people watching incredible performances. Luca Fogale in the Ymir Hotel, Marin Patenaude in the Church, Red Eyed Soul at the Wildflower, the Wooden Horsemen at the Community Hall. Good families and great food, a classic Kootenay town with all of its doors open. I’m quite sure I’ll never be able to miss another.

Shirley Gnome singing “Vegan Semen” on a sunny Sunday in the Church.

And if you’re so inclined to make a comfortable time of it, consider staying at the Logden Lodge just up the road from Ymir on Puerto Rico road. Four separate, beautifully finished cabins surrounded by forest fit the rustic, country vibe of Tiny Lights quite perfectly.

Tiny Lights Festival usually runs the second weekend in June and sells out early, so stay tuned for when tickets go on sale for next year. For perfect off-grid accommodations through the year, visit Logden Lodge.

Horsefly, BC banjo-builders and Juno winning duet, Pharis and Jason Romero, playing in the School House. Photo: Nick Waggoner.

Author / Contributor

Mitchell Scott

Mitchell Scott is the longtime Editor-in-Chief and co-publisher of both Kootenay Mountain Culture and Coast Mountain Culture Magazines. He’s been in the writing/publishing/media business for over 20 years and currently lives in Nelson, BC, where he tries to keep up with his two teenage sons with aching futility.

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