How does a small-town arts festival set itself apart from the crowd? By becoming a music, art, theatre, film, dance, workshop, culture and community festival, with almost all major buildings in the town converted into event venues for two days every year.
Going on its fourth year, the Tiny Lights Festival celebrates the culture, music and history of Ymir, BC, and the surrounding Kootenays region. Created by Ymir residents Shawn and Carla Stephenson, the festival is rooted in celebrating the town, and drawing new visitors – and maybe new residents. Activities include panning for gold, a sustainability village, and the women’s grocery race (an authentic Ymir tradition dating back to the early 1900s). Artists are hosted in the Ymir Palace Inn, a restored former brothel that now serves as an anchor for local skiing and hiking.
The festival has also acted as a business incubator for the town: four businesses which were created and tested at Tiny Lights festival now thrive in the region. With a regional shift from traditional mining and forestry to new, creative and sustainable business opportunities, the cultural heritage of region is celebrated in the festival and in the many small businesses that are developing in the region. Many are based on sustainable forest harvest products, like the picking, drying, processing and sale of high-end culinary mushrooms. There is also progress with independent micro hydro systems, and new young farmers and food sustainability advocates.