Boonstock misses welcome mat in Penticton
Boonstock, the music festival pushed out of Alberta and hoping to relocate to Penticton, seems to have gotten off on the wrong foot with local officials.
Penticton Mayor Garry Litke, who had only heard of the festival’s intentions this week, voiced his displeasure with how the Boonstock organizer approached his Tuesday announcement of moving to Penticton.
The Boonstock website stated they had the support of both city council and the Penticton Indian Band, where it is hoping to host the event Aug. 1 to 3.
“I told him that on his website it says it is supported by the City of Penticton and I said to get that off the website because it is not supported by the city,” asserted Litke.
“He agreed to remove that,” said Litke.
The mayor said he met with Penticton RCMP Supt. Kevin Hewco on Wednesday to discuss what steps the festival has taken with their security plan, only to find there has been none.
“Supt. Hewco has no idea where he can get the required number of officers from on the long weekend because they are already totally busy,” said Litke.
“From the RCMP perspective, this is a non-starter because the promoter has not been in touch and not provided a security plan.
“Insp. Hewco doesn’t even think he can provide that level of policing that would be necessary even if he wanted to.”
Litke added the city is not against bringing events of this type to the community and cited the Rock The Peach festival which he said had a well-executed plan, but it was not financially successful for the promoters.
“At first blush I thought Boonstock would be great, bringing 6,000 people in town who are going to eat in our restaurants and go on wine tours and climb at the bluffs,” said Litke.
“That would be great.
“But, there has been no planning that we have been part of and we certainly are not interested in jeopardizing the safety of our community and citizens.”
Litke said if the Boonstock organizers come back with the security plan and all the appropriate approvals they can begin talking about putting on the event with council.
“But, those are pretty significant hurdles.” he said.
Boonstock promoter Colin Kobza said there has been some confusion and he has met with police and plans to reach out again.
“There is maybe some miscommunication because the city thinks I haven’t met with them, but I have met with them,” he said.
“What I did pass along is that we would be providing our safety and policy and procedure plan here in the next few weeks.”
In September, Sturgeon County council, where the festival had taken place the past nine years near Gibbons, Alta., received a scathing report from the police, county and Alberta health officials about the most recent Boonstock. It led to a new land-use bylaw being created that essentially will not allow Boonstock to operate there.
The report cites issues brought up by RCMP, including traffic congestion and short event staffing taking police away from their planned duties.
Mounties said event security did not know how some of the liquor laws applied and nothing was being done to those contravening them and when the event reached capacity, organizers used space outside the permitted area for parking.
“The RCMP cannot participate in future events if there are no controls that are going to be enforced,” said the report.
“We cannot get extra human resources on a moment’s notice when we have already tied up so many for this event.”
Alberta Health Services said the EMS providers also experienced difficulties receiving accurate and timely information from Boonstock and ambulances transported twice the patient volume (43) than the year prior with the majority being drug overdoses.
Despite this, EMS said it was the most well run Boonstock event yet.
Costs paid by Boonstock for supplementary policing were $125,000 and $25,000 for ambulance support.
A letter from Ron Ebbers, a neighbour to the Boonstock festival site last year, said he felt that the event poses a threat to the community.
The letter said they were shocked and outraged that RCMP confiscated a loaded gun, dealt with drug trafficking and a home invasion.
Ebbers was contacted by phone and said he was glad to see the festival gone from the area.
He offered words of “good luck” to the residents on Penticton and that “actions speak louder than words,” when it comes to the promoter.
“When you read other posts and talk to people it is the party with alcohol and drugs they talk about not the music or bands. What does that say? Boonstock has outgrown our community and needs to move on,” wrote Ebbers in his letter to Sturgeon council.
Kobza did not deny there were issues and said there will be changes to the security plan. The event in Penticton, he said, will be scaled back in scope and size compared to last year’s event which drew some 65,000 people over the Canada Day long weekend.
“There were some challenges. I think Sturgeon County definitely did make a wrong decision, less than one per cent of people at Boonstock did cause a problem,” he said.
Penticton Indian Band Chief Jonathan Kruger also said Kobza’s event does not have the backing of the PIB council just yet and called the festival announcement of moving to Penticton “premature.”
Kruger said the PIB council is also waiting to see a security plan and the other steps they laid out for Kobza before he could get the go-ahead.
Boonstock would be leasing land from a locatee (private) land owner on the PIB and Kruger said there are no bylaws that would prevent that from taking place.
But, there are things that potentially could be done to make the event not feasible.
“Yes, at the end of the day council does have authority to do something because they control the roads that go into the locatee lands. You can’t just throw up a good idea and go with it,” said Kruger.
“You have to have the proper plan and strategies.
“I’m sure council will do something to reaffirm the steps that need to be taken and it will be up to Colin to see if those steps are executed or not.”