Penticton and South Okanagan
Oct 31, 2013 / 7:18 am
Plans by organizers to bring a huge music festival to Penticton next summer has been met with mixed reactions in the Okanagan city.
While some welcome the idea of the Boonstock Music and Arts Festival happening here, the mayor and RCMP are concerned about a festival of this size coming to the city, and issues that arose when it was held in Alberta.
"Two days ago the promoter came to us with a glossy brochure saying this is coming," said Mayor Garry Litke. "This raised concerns about liquor control, safety and highway access."
The festival has been held for several years near Gibbons, Alberta, but after concerns were brought up by neighbours and law enforcement regarding the event, the Sturgeon County Council voted to ban it in September.
After learning of the organizers' plans this week, LItke said he met with RCMP Insp. Kevin Hewco on Wednesday morning to determine the status of the policing plans around Boonstock and learned there was no such plan in place.
The concern from both parties is how to come up with policing resources for the festival, slated to be held on Penticton Indian Band land near Skaha Lake from Aug. 1 to 3, 2014.
"There are concerns as to how they are going to address problems they had in the past and if we will have the resources to police when we are already strapped on the long weekend," said Pentiction RCMP Sgt. Rick Dellebuur.
Dellebuur said the organizers for Boonstock did drop in to talk with the RCMP during the summer, but all they said at the time was they were looking for some sites.
"We heard nothing more, and then suddenly we hear they are having it," said Dellebuur.
Among other issues listed by Litke are highway access, liquor control and health issues related to having that many people in one place.
Travis Kruger , a councillor with the Penticton Indian Band, who has worked with the organizers, said he never wanted it to come as a surprise and they have paid close attention to a security plan.
"If it was something that we thought would be unsafe for the Penticton Indian Band or community at large, we would never have considered having it here," he said. "And in GIbbons you had people stuck in one place. Now you have people going out, making sure the whole community gets a boost."
Colin Kobza, president of the Boonstock Entertainment and Arts Society, said he knew there would be some negativity going in and that they are working on a plan.
"We have our own on site security, and we do want an RCMP presence to feel safe, so we are working with them," he said.
Kobza said the festival started out as a small scale birthday celebration with 168 attendees on his family's land northeast of Edmonton.
From there it got bigger very year, with 15,000 people attending on a daily basis last year.
He chose Penticton because he comes here every summer and has friends in the area.
"We were outgrowing our site and after numerous meetings, we decided Penticton was the best spot," he said.
Acquaintance Max Picton, president of the Barefoot Beach Resort, was instrumental in getting Kobza to bring the festival here.
Picton told organizers the Penticton Indian Band was forward thinking and a smart group. Kobza then met with Kruger and got his blessing to move forward, he said.
To reassure those worried about the large scale of the festival, he said there will be a softer feel to Boonstock in Penticton.
In Alberta, they love their rock and roll, but we will be looking at reggae and indy acts," he said. "People think it's going to be this crazy festival, but we are going to soften it up."
The organizers are community oriented and eager to work with the city of Penticton, he added.
Picton is a staunch supporter of the festival.
"He wants to come here and make this a positive event, which I think is fantastic for the region," he said. "The Okanagan has become very Kelowna centric, so events and festivals at this level will do a lot to grow this part of the Okanagan and it will be a big economic boost."
Brent Madsen, the owner of the Elite Restaurant in downtown Penticton, says bring it on.
"I am from Alberta and am really familiar with where the venue was and understand the concerns," he said. "But it can be put together differently here, if the owners do what they are promising to do."
Sue Clack, the owner of Pennyfarthing Gifts and Cards, said she is keeping her fingers crossed that people behave.
"We remember the riot after the MC Hammer concert, where we had our windows smashed and they destroyed the Peach," she said. "So that plays in the back of people's minds, the concern that it could be disruptive."
Although he has worries, Litke said the economic spinoff from such a festival could be a good news story for the city.
Still Penticton is a long way from providing support.
"It's not a done deal by any means. There are still several hurdles to overcome and policing is the first one," he said. "I have also spoken to reporters from the Edmonton Journal and they are amused the organizers would be trying to transplant this into the Okanagan."
Read more Penticton / S. Okanagan News
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Penticton Discussion Forum
Penticton & Wine Country Chamber
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District of Summerland
Summerland Chamber & Tourism
Town of Oliver
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Town of Keremeos
School District 67 - Okanagan Skaha
School District 53 - Okanagan Similkameen
Okanagan Regional Library
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