Armstrong MetalFest co-founder Jesse Valstar performs with Odinfist during the annual event at the Hassen Arena and IPE Grounds in 2019. (Jennifer Blake - File)

Armstrong MetalFest co-founder Jesse Valstar performs with Odinfist during the annual event at the Hassen Arena and IPE Grounds in 2019. (Jennifer Blake - File)

Province backs Armstrong MetalFest

Metal festival organizers announce support from BC Arts Council will keep them ‘on their feet’

COVID-19 may have silenced Armstrong MetalFest (AMF) this year, but thanks to a provincial grant, the festival will be kept on its feet until it can ‘turn it up to eleven’ in 2022.

AMF, a part of West Metal Entertainment, was awarded relief funds through the BC Arts Council and co-founder Jesse Valstar said the grant will cover all of the society’s fixed and basic operating costs for 2020-21.

“This funding is really positive,” Valstar said. “One of the most challenging parts during the COVID pandemic is for a (non-for-profit) society that depends on people gathering to make money — when you can’t gather people, you can’t raise funds.”

Earlier this month, AMF announced it had to pull the plug for the second year in a row due to provincial health orders restricting events and Valstar said the volunteer-based society had come to accept the costs of the pandemic.

“We had just said, ‘this is a casualty but we can deal with it.’”

But with this award, the team behind Western Canada’s largest metal festival won’t have to start two steps back.

The funding will cover website operations, society maintenance and the annual Armstrong Metal Fest Music Bursary, awarded to a graduating Pleasant Valley Secondary student.

“When we don’t have an event, we can’t really pay for that kind of stuff,” Valstar said. “The B.C. government rolled in and actually helped us out quite a bit.”

Looking to 2022, the festival is set to come back bigger and better than ever — pending health orders.

“We’re looking at ways to expand the festival from what it is right now but trying to sort things out… we can’t do anything without knowing what we’re allowed to do,” Valstar said.

Now, it’s a game of wait and see.

“Armstrong MetalFest and every other event and gathering has its struggles so we’re not unique in that aspect,” he said. “You’ve just got to move forward with whatever you’ve got.”

The BC Arts Council was created in 1995 to support the arts and cultural activity in communities across the province.

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@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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