Boone celebrates 20 years of Banff Mountain Film Festival

Adrienne Fouts

Boone will celebrate its 20th year of hosting Banff Mountain Film Festival this weekend, with special anniversary events planned in addition to the sold out film screenings.

The festival, which celebrates notable outdoor adventurers, filmmakers, photographers and authors, is based at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada each fall. Banff is kicked off over “nine days bursting with stories of profound journeys, unexpected adventures and ground-breaking expeditions,” according to the Banff Centre’s press release for the festival.

Banff then embarks on a world tour in the Spring, with a selection of the festival’s best films. Boone is just one stop on the tour, which visits 42 U.S. states and 41 other countries.

The Boone screening of Banff, hosted by Appalachian State’s Outdoor Programs, has grown immensely since its beginnings in 1996. Only 185 people attended the festival in the Farthing Auditorium, now the Schaefer Center, during the first year, Associate Director of Outdoor Programs Rich Campbell said.

After being moved to I.G. Greer for a few years, Banff began to increase in popularity and outgrew the smaller venue. It was then moved back to the Schaefer Center, where it has sold out the 1600-seat facility every year since 2008. The possibility of adding a third night to the festival has been discussed, Campbell said, if Boone’s enthusiasm for Banff continues to grow.

During the festival, taking place Friday and Saturday evenings, the audience watches several short films related to outdoor recreation and expeditions, from climbing to kayaking. The films are interspersed with intermissions and prize giveaways, including an announcement of the winners of the Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition.

Several local businesses have supported Banff over the years, and are helping to celebrate its 20th anniversary in Boone by hosting special events and promotions. Lost Province Brewing Company is releasing two new beers Friday along with reduced prices on some menu items.

Additionally, climbing centers Rock Dimensions, Center 45 and High Gravity Adventures are offering multiple discounts during the festival weekend and to anyone who shows a Banff ticket stub.

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The arrival of world-class climber Alex Honnold and celebrated author and adventurer David Roberts will be the center of the festival celebrations.

Honnold and Roberts are promoting their new book “Alone on the Wall,” an account of Honnold’s seven most astonishing climbing achievements, according to the book’s press release.

“David Roberts is an incredible climber and mountaineer, and he’s also got around 25 or 30 books and is in the upper echelons of adventure writing,” Campbell said. “And Alex, he’s one of the biggest names in the outdoor world.”

Having Honnold and Roberts in Boone for the festival is huge and unexpected, Campbell said, since the guests’ appearance was only secured a few weeks ago.

The Richard T. Barker Friends of the Library group, which works to enhance the Belk Library’s resources and sponsor various literature events, is largely responsible for bringing the pair to Boone. The group got in touch with the publisher of “Alone on the Wall” and is taking care of Honnold’s and Roberts’ travel expenses.

“It’s kind of crazy that we got them here,” Campbell said. “And the events with Honnold and Roberts are free and open to the public, so people who couldn’t get tickets can still experience what Banff is all about.”

Honnold and Roberts will be giving an informal talk about climbing at Footsloggers at 2 p.m. on Friday, followed by a book signing. A presentation entitled “Writing About Adventure – For a Living” will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Schaefer Center, with another book signing at 5:30 p.m.

“We wanted to try to do something really special for the 20th anniversary,” Campbell said. “The chance for someone to chat over at Footsloggers with literally one of the world’s top outdoor athletes, that’s pretty cool.”

A combination of Boone’s location, its citizens’ interest in the outdoors and an amazing facility in the Schaefer Center is what makes Boone a great place to host Banff, Campbell said.

Jeremy Barnes, a graduate accounting student, has been to Banff several times and said that what he enjoys most is the festival’s atmosphere.

“What always sticks with me and what I think the Boone community reacts to the most are the films about humanitarianism, making the world a better place,” Barnes said. “Some of those stories told through film are truly life changing.”

Story by: Adrienne Fouts, A&E Reporter