Letters to the Editor

LETTER: Time to do away with sabotage of Boonstock

The Penticton Wine Country Chamber of Commerce has chosen to support the Boonstock Music and Arts Festival, and is excited to see the opportunity it provides to our city.

Boonstock Music and Arts Festival will be taking place in Penticton, Aug. 1 to 3. The Chamber of Commerce believes this music festival will generate massive economic impact for Penticton, both in the short and long term. It is time to do away with shortsighted thinking and sabotage, and act as a community with vision in partnership with our First Nations neighbours.

We understand Boonstock has had some challenges with a few of our community's emergency responders and the media has reported much of that conversation. The chamber believes all events should be measured and held to a firm standard that does not change with the weather. It is unfortunate that one event is subjected to a significantly higher standard, particularly when they are located on our neighbouring community. Having attended the most recent update from Boonstock to the Regional District's Protective Services group, I can attest to the significant planning, preparation and expenditures that the organizers have completed.

At any large scale event, additional policing and security are a budgeted part of the plan. The national average for RCMP officers at a festival or event is one officer per 500 attendees. This is a standard formula used by the RCMP. Pemberton Music Festival is held to this, Squamish Music Festival is similar, but have opted to bring in 90 RCMP officers, bringing their ratio to 1:400 attendees. However, Boonstock is being forced to adhere to an expensive standard of one officer to 200 attendees, in addition to extensive private security. This festival is facing demands to meet an unheard of level of preparation, not seen by festivals in other jurisdictions around British Columbia.

In the short term, the Boonstock Festival will bring over 8,500 visitors to Penticton and inject a massive boost to the economy and the tourism industry. More than half of Boonstock guests are staying in local accommodations who will be taking advantage of local amenities. That is reality. In the long term, if welcomed and treated right, those 8,500 visitors will become repeat customers of the amazing things Penticton has to offer.

Additionally, we must recognize the huge investment that has gone into creating a true festival grounds for the community. There are dozens of municipalities that would love to have the space and infrastructure to develop a festival grounds of this magnitude. How lucky are we that a corporate citizen provided just such an investment without burdening taxpayers to build it? And the Penticton Indian Band along with their locatee families had enough vision to support the organizers and make this happen! The potential and possibilities of this festival and the surrounding grounds are unlimited. Let's pull our heads out of the sand, be thankful for this economic opportunity, act as united communities, and do what we can to support business.

Chamber members are invited to attend our Members Forum on July 8 with the organizers of Boonstock and representatives of the Penticton Indian Band. This will be a forum where issues of public safety, transportation and other pertinent items can be discussed and questions answered.

The forum will be held in the main board room of the Chamber of Commerce offices starting promptly at 6 p.m. on July 8.

Campbell Watt,

President of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce

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