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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

North Of The Border, An Eco-Friendly Fest Generates Music, Food And Very Little Garbage

Courtesy of Claude Dufresne
The strong man, mid-act, at a previous ShazamFest. The three-day event boasts circus arts, a skateboard venue, camping, food and a kid-friendly vibe.

Ready to outdo itself again this year, the brash and bawdy — yet completely kid-friendly — ShazamFest begins its second decade entertaining micro-throngs of music lovers. 

The festival runs for three days in mid-July and takes place in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

In it's 11th year, the event is run (mostly) single-handedly by Ziv Przytyk.  

Przytyk describes ShazamFest as "neo-vaudeville with the strongman and the burlesque and the wrestling and the skateboarding and all the other arts and circus stuff going on, aside from all the music."

ShazamFest is held on Przytyk's parents' organic farm in Barnston West where the family has kept true to its promise of being stewards of the land.

Performers and bands at the fest entertain bigger crowds of concert-goers each year and still only generate a small amount of garbage.

"Last year, with 1,600 people over four days, we produced 17 bags of garbage." — Ziv Przytyk

About a two-hour drive from Burlington, the festival-goers camp and can purchase a variety of food choices. Nearly all of the venders locally source their produce. There's also a heavy emphasis on keeping younger attendees occupied with workshops and fun.

"Last year, we had over 300 kids 12-and-under on the site. Kids under 18 are almost a third of the population of the whole festival," Pryztyk said.

Credit Claude Dufresne

"We have this beautiful river valley. It's in this hidden, natural amphitheater right along the Niger River. The site itself, also the Abenaki that use to be here, it used to be a meeting ground for them ... it's a very magical spot.

"We compost all the vegetable matter. We do that on the farm here," Przytyk said. "All the rest of the stuff gets sorted ... basically all the stragglers from the festival that are still left over, I recruit them. They either have to stay and help sort through the garbage or they have to leave."

An eclectic mix of acts are on the roster for this year, including bands playing hip-hop and punk rock and the Quebec rock duo,Les Deuxluxes as well as folk music by Old Time Honey.

Also set to perform is a group who does an 1880s-style show with sword-swallowers and fire-eaters. 

Przytyk points out that the American dollar will stretch farther this summer at ShazamFest. Tickets are on sale now for the festival, which is July 15, 16 and 17.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
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