The return of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour to the Eastern Sierra this week marks not only the event’s 20th anniversary, but adds credence to the modern axiom that if you build it – or in this case screen it – they will come.
Indeed, what began as an idea to promote a local business and simply offer something to do in Bishop has become one of the Eastside’s most popular and enduring annual events, drawing upwards of 1,000 residents and visitors over its two-night run.
This year’s festival is being held at the Charles Brown Auditorium Friday and Saturday, beginning at 7 p.m. both nights, with different films each night.
No one is more surprised by the festival’s success than James Wilson, who along with friend and fellow outdoor enthusiast Brad Rassler, envisioned the inaugural Bishop screening of the Banff Mountain Film Festival as an intimate affair.
“We thought maybe 100 people in an auditorium somewhere,” said Wilson, who up until 2013 owned Wilson’s Eastside Sports – one of the first retail stores in the Eastern Sierra that catered to the growing population of rock climbers and mountaineers specifically.
Instead, 275 to 300 residents turned out for the first annual, one-night-only Banff screening in Bishop, setting the tone for the next two decades as the event consistently sold out in subsequent years.
The festival was eventually moved to the Charles Brown Auditorium at the Tri-County Fairgrounds to accommodate the average 600 viewers a night the event now attracts.
Read more in the Thursday, March 27 edition of The Inyo Register.