Our Magical Field Trip to SXMusic Festival

Grassroots, magical, and community, are the words that come to mind when describing the experience that was our ‘field trip’ to SXMusic Festival 2016, held in St Martin/ Sint Maarten.

The anticipation

It began with 20+ festival travelers meeting in the departure lounge of Toronto's YYZ – A group of industry professionals, DJ’s and festival goers all alive with energy in anticipation of embarking on our unique and pioneering SXM ‘field trip’. The excitement of being part of something new and collective was infectious; we were all bouncing with energy, and that continued onto the plane. The feeling of community and anticipation of what was to come turned strangers into friends and friends into family.

Photo creds: Ded Pixel & Alec Donnell Luna from Ded Agency

Let the magic begin

We landed to the warm and genuine welcome of Steph and the SXMusic Festival team, hugs and smiles for everyone. The welcome station was well organized and ready for festival travelers to pick up wristbands, festival info and help with any needs. On our road trip across the island, the sights, sounds, smells and feel of the island heightened our senses as we headed to an unfamiliar destination and unknown experience. Once we settled into our accommodation, the excitement to see, feel and be part of this unique experience was overwhelming. We went skipping off down the beach to check out Palm Beach Club, the location of the day parties; we were curious to see what was the setting, how was it laid out, what was the decor.

Et voila, magic

When we arrived to Palm Beach Club, Orient Bay, we were blown away when around the corner appeared a magical space that felt as if it had been made just for us. The venue was on the beach - the warmth of the sun, the sounds of the Caribbean Sea and sight of majestic mountains in the background was exactly what our summer-deprived Canadian bodies and souls needed. Palm Beach, was the daytime venue for the five-day festival and seeing as our accommodation was just a five minute walk from there, we knew that this was going to be our new home.

Grassroots

Day one of the festival was the next day. Friends, turned into a family of six, woke up to the air vibrating in anticipation of being part of this grassroots festival, ready to welcome whatever came our way and to embrace it, unconditionally. Being at a first-time festival in an unknown and untested environment; we had no way of to know what the experience would be. We believed and trusted the organizers to give us a safe and unique experience. As Festival Travelers and our collective love of music and travel, we embraced the journey and jumped in headfirst!

The day turned out to be what we, as experienced festival travelers, were all craving! The Venue was in a perfect setting, the Music and sound were just right, the decor dreamy and magical, the openness of the crowd moving, and the warm and inviting spirit of the organizers and their team was heartwarming. We knew the foundation for success had been laid properly. Despite a random, unforeseen labour dispute that blocked cars from getting into the venue, people found a way; They walked in, hitched rides, found alternate routes and arrived excited for the adventure to begin. The day continued into a night of equally amazing adventures across the island in new, undiscovered venues and music aficionados dancing to the beats of a world-class lineup of DJ’s.

Community and SXM

We created positives out of challenges. The spirit of the festival traveler is indeed something myths and stories are made of. The labour dispute that continued the next day, encouraged people to connect with new friends and to explore the island, creating lifetime memories and unique experiences. We named one of our road trips “in search of the perfect roti”. The fact that the venues were spread out around the island, although not without its challenges, encouraged us festival travelers to explore the incredible island of St Martin/ Sint Maarten. The stories we heard from fellow festival travelers, told of foodies getting the chance to taste the flavours of the island, and sun-lovers getting their chance to jump into the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. The french side, for us, was all about the food: we are still reminiscing about some of those meals. On the Dutch side, we felt the truth of the slogan “The Friendly Island”. It felt warm and inviting. It was sitting at the roadside eating our roti, palm trees and sea in view, where we fully experienced the island feel and the SXM embrace.

The weather at times tried to drown our spirits – not happening! At one Palm Beach event, festival travelers and organizers made a makeshift 50 foot plastic tarp and a group of dedicated dancers held it over everyone, showing the power of collective spirit.

The labor dispute disruption created some interesting traffic around the island, limiting the shuttles' ability to get around and delaying festival travelers getting to their events. This didn't douse spirits and in the quest to find alternate routes, or while getting stuck in traffic, laughter was abundant and new friendships were born. Regardless, every event had a great turnout and was hugely successful.

A special treat

The VIP party was held at Loterie Farm – was a stunning venue in the jungle and made for a truly unique experience. Pools designed to blend into it’s natural environment, hot tubs, and the topper - a tree-house DJ booth. We all watched as Behrouz walked across a floating bridge 20 feet high in order to get to his DJ booth. It was hilarious to see 600+ smiles, that not one person could wipe off their face. For those who got hungry, the menu offered a great selection of food. The VIP party was definitely one for the books.

The unique experiences kept coming and coming. One of our personal favourites was 600+ Festival Goers gathering on the beach at Layla’s for a 5.30 am sunrise party, to a heartfelt set by Lee Burridge. Seeing his smile said it all! It projected what we were all feeling.

The closing

For us, the closing party at Palm Beach with Dubfire was a set made for the legend books.You could feel everyone’s presence, immersed in the moment and the music. So much so, that when it started to rain, not one person ran for cover...not sure anyone even noticed. What a way to end our soul filling field trip – that was SXMusic Festival. One of the most memorable all round festival experiences and something The Festival Traveler was honoured to support and be part of.

Until next time

And, there will be a next time. To all the organizers and many dedicated supporters who had the courage, passion and tenacity to make SXMusic Festival year one happen, we selfishly thank you for making us feel like the festival was all about us.

We have no doubt, that lessons will be learned from year one and enhancements will be made. More festival travelers will attend in the years to come, however the grassroots feel of year one SXMusic Festival of 2016 will never be repeated and for that, we are so proud to have been there to brag about it.

The Festival Traveler