Rockin’ River Country Music Festival Returns to Merritt

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The Rockin’ River Music Festival is back in Merritt, BC after a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Concert grounds will look a little different after flooding hit the area last November, but organizer Kenny Hess told CBC Dawn Kamloops the festival, which has become a tradition much like the Merritt Mountain Music Festival was in the past, will be well received by local music fans.

“There’s a lot of people out there who I think… missed music as much as we did,” he said.

The event at Moon Shadows Campground on Neilson Street near the Coldwater River began Thursday and will run through Sunday. Headliners include American artists Tim McGraw and Darius Rucker.

Hess said new campsites were created after one of the main festival campsites was damaged by flooding. In addition, one of the festival stages was washed away.

The music festival began in 2008 at Mission Raceway Park as the Lower Mainland’s largest outdoor country music event. After moving to Merritt in 2015, it grew into a four-day event taking place over the BC Day long weekend, attracting thousands of music fans from the Nicola Valley and beyond.

“It’s a great place for everyone to get together and meet friends,” said Hess, who will also be performing at the event. “We’re glad it wasn’t canceled by the pandemic.”

The river near the venue cools the heat

The four-day party comes at a time when Merritt, like other parts of British Columbia, is under a heat warning, with daytime temperatures reaching 38C.

Hess says there are misting machines at the performance site and – of course – the nearby Coldwater River for people to cool off.

“The river is a great air conditioner, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

Festival goers cool off in the Coldwater River in this undated photo. (Rockin’ River Music Festival)

It also reminds people outside of Merritt who may not know what the weather in town is like.

“Merritt is wedged between the mountains, so it gets chilly at night,” he said. “Once you’ve been in the heat all day, it’s so cold [that] hits you like a ton of bricks.”

Mayor Linda Brown said the music festival is an “extremely needed” event that not only attracts tourists but also the party atmosphere that was missing during the pandemic.

“Sometimes we have to put up with streets that can barely handle the traffic, but … we adapt and welcome them with open arms.

“Bring your money…and be kind to our residents, too,” Brown said.

Brown also says she hopes the 108 families still unable to return home after the fires and floods that affected Merritt last year will be able to celebrate the music festival in some way.

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