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The Weirdest Things We Saw at Shambhala 2023

Ketamine-fuelled river races, porta puppies, glow-in-the-dark chess matches, and much more.

by Johnny Papan

Photo by Blake Jorgenson

Returning to the mountains, we were once again happy to float through the shadows of Shambhala, British Columbia’s premier hippie electronic music festival. Shambhala is a place where you can shut our brain off from the mundane responsibilities of reality and tap into your inner weirdo. During last year’s visit, the festival’s positive energy washed over us as we danced our butts off at its various stages while taking in a plethora of totally weird stuff.

At the end of each year, you think you’ve seen it all. And then you return the next year to find out that, well, you definitely haven’t. Within the festival’s crevices are heaps of hidden secrets to trip you out and put a smile on your face. Did Shambhala get weirder than last time? Let’s check our notes. Here are a few of the weirdest things we saw at Shambhala 2023.

Photo by Leigh Goddard

The Ketamine Cup

What if Mario Kart took place in a river, and everyone participating was on drugs? That’s kind of what the Ketamine Cup is. The Ketamine Cup is an annual race that takes place at Shambhala’s river on Saturday morning. All you need is your floatie to participate. Every participant is given a free “superpower” before the race takes off. You don’t have to be a horse to guess what that superpower is.

We’re not totally clear on what the winner gets. We know there is a trophy for whoever gets first place, but we wouldn’t be surprised if there was more to be earned.

 

Photo by Mackenzie Matthews

The Whippet Stage

Thousands of empty nitrous canisters are disposed of at every festival. Rather than throw some away, some attendees decided to recycle their N20 containers into a little art installation. Donning their canisters with googly eyes, someone created a little replica stage set with its own DJ and ravers. 


Ecstacheese

Photo by Jesse Zaurinni

“Ground scores” are a popular festival phenomenon. As you meander through the chaos of crowds, loud music and darkness, sometimes you are bound to drop something like a wristband, a piece of jewelry or a cherished trinket. Other times, you may find something fun like a pair of sunglasses, neon lights, a plastic water gun, or even party favors to keep your night going.

However, not all scores are what they seem. It’s vital that if you find drugs at any festival, make sure you get it checked before ingesting. One festival-goer was a prime example of why this is important. They were elated to find what they thought was an MDMA capsule, but after getting it checked at the ANKORS drug-testing tent, they found out it was just a cap full of parmesan cheese. 

 

Photo by Nate Asham

Porta Puppies

Amidst the intensity of a music festival, sometimes the porta potties can be a life-saver. They are one of the very few places where you can escape for a brief moment and catch up on a little bit of “me time” to chill out or ground yourself. 

As you step into the potty, you are often greeted by messages written over the years. Shamhala reuses the same porta potties every festival, giving you an opportunity to see messages from partygoers from years past. This year, however, someone changed things up by plastering the walls with pictures of cute dogs. Whether you are having a bad time, neutral time, or great time, a porta potty plastered in photos of puppies guarding you while you poop will surely put you in a better mood. 

 

 

Photo by Chelsea Burgan

Fractal For Chess

We all know there are plenty of ways for festivals to stimulate you. Music stimulates your body, psychedelic compounds stimulate your soul, but what stimulates your mind? In the case of these fine folk, it was a game of chess at Fractal Forest!

Nestled in front of one of Shambhala’s most vibrant and stimulating stages, some festival-goers transformed a quiet corner into their very own battleground of wit and strategy, capturing the attention of spectators. Checkmate!

 

Photo by Levi Sergeant

The Totems and Banners

Some of the most fun things about Shambhala are the creative and hilarious totems and banners you see scattered across the festival. Everything from a shrine of Gary Busey, to Snoop Jesus, to totems of birds who can flap their wings or Peter Griffin dancing can be found. Heck, if you look closely, you may find Beetlejuice “just hangin’ around.” 

From memes to pop culture characters to vulgar reminders to stay hydrated, Shambhala signage is not to be ignored.

 

Frick Frack Blackjack

Photo by Jackie Brap LeClaire

Frick Frack Blackjack, a makeshift blackjack table tucked away, is a delightful secret at the heart of Shambhala Music Festival. Here you will find kooky characters from all corners of the event. One of the players found was a shirtless Boba Fett, adding layers to the already surreal scene. As the music pulsates in the background, laughter and camaraderie flow as you place your bets against the Willy Wonka-esque dealer. 

This was only a small selection of what we found at Shambhala 2023. Some more weird things worth mentioning include a cookie monster plushie in one of the porta potty urinals, a guy walking around with a blacklight yelling “Semen check,” a group of friends dancing around a ziploc bag full of cooked pasta, and a guy chasing decorative balls hanging off the end of his own umbrella. 

It seems that no matter how many times you go, there will always be something new to surprise you.