Shambhala Music Festival made the news in more ways than one during the weekend of their 20th annual event. Shambhala is on a private property and has a long history of success. The growth of Shambhala has come from positive word of mouth and this year they even hosted what was the most advanced drug testing in the world for harm prevention. These reasons and more are why Shambhala should be and initially were in the news. Unfortunately, that was not the case for long.

The music festival took place over August 11-14, 2017 acting as a landmark moment for the brand, the community and all the staff involved. We’ve heard the stories, we know it’s Skrillex’s favorite festival and we know that it sold out in less than 24 hours a year in advance without a line up announcement. We had to make it to the 20th year to see what made this festival so special. What we witnessed was an amazing event that created a safe space for festival goers, but was surrounded by controversy and unwarranted backlash due to a nearby fire. The event itself is a gathering for a like minded community taking place in British Columbia, Canada. There’s parts in BC that are very dry and forest fires have become very common during hot summers. This year was particularly bad and unfortunately a man made fire started a short 25 kms away from the location of Shambhala. The event was put on pre-evacuation as a safety measure and to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best; a good mindset to have. This, unfortunately, drew mass media attention for all the wrong reasons. The words pre-evacuation sound scary, but it really just means be prepared to leave is safety becomes a concern. Though most festival goers didn’t notice, the world was watching and people were concerned. 

Party Hard, But Party Safe! 

One of the most impressive things at the festival was a booth called Ankors, where they used some of the most advanced drug testing technology to ensure attendee’s weren’t taking unsuspecting substances. It’s nice when a festival recognizes people will do drugs if they want too, so instead of just banning them (which they did), they also provided drug testing for free for harm prevention. There were no drugs allowed at Shambhala, just like everywhere, but how many times is that actually the case? It’s nice to face reality as it is instead of blindly creating rules you know not everyones going to follow. BC is in the middle of an opioid crises and hundreds have died from the powerful drug Fentanayl. Shambhalal used the most advanced testing possible by using Spectrometer technology to help spot unwanted Fentanyl usage. This advanced type of testing can find traces of opioid such as fentanyl and tell you whether your substance is safe or not. ANKORS have been attending and testing substances at Shambhala for over a decade. They have saved numerous lives and probably stopped many people from having a shitty night. Drugs like cocaine, MDMA, ecstasy and others can be cut with dangerous opioids such as fentanyl to make it cheaper for dealers as they sell to unsuspecting users. Though the booth offered 4 ways to test substances, the showstopper is undoubtedly the spectrometer which can find even the smallest grains of contamination. They actually had to fundraise just to get that equipment to the festival, Many festivals have their insurance rejected for having drug testing, which is an issue within itself, so attende’s are warned at the booth via a disclaimer than any drug use is still on them. They had over 12,000 visits over the weekend. Just imagine how many bad times were avoided because of Ankors! If anyone did happen to have a bad time they had a safe zone where people could calm down. It’s a cozy place where they provide blankets, crayons and someone to talk too if needed. The preparation and thought for harm reduction was impressive on Shambhala’s part; no doubt.