New festival aims to create a safe, sober space for people and raise money for addictions treatment

Mike Manhas, event organizer, said the goal was to create a safe space for people to celebrate addictions recovery.

Victoria will be the home of a new sober festival this summer.

Soberfest 2022 is a drug and alcohol free festival featuring comedians, local bands and headliners like XL The Band.

Mike Manhas, event organizer, said the goal was to create a safe space for people to celebrate addictions recovery.

“To enjoy a summer festival, listen to music and have some laughs,” Manhas added.

He said a lot of festivals have beer gardens or a party-like atmosphere, making it hard for people with addictions to fully enjoy the event.

Being almost nine years sober himself, Manhas thought it was important to create a space where people can enjoy outdoor summer concerts and festivals, without being surrounded by drug and alcohol.

“I’ve been taught in an early part of my recovery that an integral part of being in recovery is giving back,” Manhas said. “I’ve been blessed with these skills like this [like] putting on events for people and creating connection is near and dear to my heart. Whatever I can do to be a small part of that I jump at.”

He added performers slated to hit the stage jumped at the opportunity to be a part of Soberfest 2022.

Local band The Coast said an event like this is so important for the recovering community.

“I know from my own experience how tough that was and how much I associated drugs and alcohol with live music,” Evan James, The Coast member said. “So having a safe space for people to enjoy live music and participate in that environment without those temptations around them is huge.”

Liesa Norman, XL The Band member, added an event with this format is also good for kids and families.

“To see that alcohol or drugs doesn’t have to be a part of every single moment you have fun, or doesn’t need to be tied with music to have a great time,” she said.

Soberfest is also raising money to help those who can’t afford recovery programs get the help they need.

Ticket sales and sponsorships are going towards providing recovery bed spaces.

“We are doing a bed, recovery house and then we are doing recovery coaching and counselling to go with it,” Manhas said. “We are hoping to be with the clients for at least a year and walk through that with them or provide them with options at least. So the total value of that is probably between $50,000 to $60,000.”

He added the event is also working with organizations like the Umbrella Society, Together We Can in Vancouver and Oaks Wellness Centre in Salmon Arm who are providing supports and beds.

So far Soberfest 2022 has raised almost enough money for five beds, but it’s hoping to raise more to help as many people as possible.

The festival will take place on Aug. 27 at the South Vancouver Island Rangers. Out of 500 tickets, there are only about 50 left as of Tuesday afternoon.

More information can be found on the Soberfest 2022 Facebook page. Tickets are $40 each and can be purchased online.

Mackenzie ReadMackenzie Read

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