Merritt might be the country capital of Canada, but the community is ready to welcome a new electronic music and arts festival with open arms.
"We're still as country as it gets," said Matt Noble, the municipality's chief administrator. "But we try to provide something for everybody."
Bass Coast, which has called Squamish home for the last four years, will move to the old Merritt Mountain Music Festival site this B.C. Day long weekend.
With the country music festival now defunct and last year's Great Canadian Bike Rally not expected to return this summer, Bass Coast is arriving at the right time, said Noble.
"They see an opportunity," he said of Bass Coast organizers Andrea Graham and Liz Thomson.
Graham and Thomson could not be reached for comment, but the Squamish News reports Bass Coast had built a sizable fanbase since it began in 2009, drawing thousands of people to the region.
Once Canada's largest country music festival, Mountainfest ran into financial difficulty in 2009 and was forced to cancel its 2010 event as it sought new backing.
The festival resumed in 2011, but attendance had significantly declined from previous years. It didn't resume in 2012.
Noble said Bass Coast would draw a new, younger crowd to the community, and that has people interested. Sandy Curnow, manager of the visitor centre in Baillie House, said residents are excited for something new.
She said Graham and Thomson spoke at a council meeting two weeks ago and appeared organized and keen to make Bass Coast work in Merritt.
As for the community's country reputation, Curnow and Noble believe Merritt's ranching heritage and outdoor tourism will keep that alive.
"Camping is big here," said Curnow.
For more information on Bass Coast visit www.basscoast.ca.
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