Boonstock music festival relocating to Penticton

Penticton will be home to the Boonstock music festival starting this Aug. 1 to 3 long weekend.

Boonstock, Western Canada’s biggest music festival, announced it is moving to Penticton this summer.

“Our team thought Penticton and the South Okanagan valley are the place we would like to have our long-term home,” said Colin Kobza, Boonstock producer and president. “The Penticton Indian Band Chief and Council and families involved have been great to work with and we are excited to be moving to this region.”

The festival, which welcomed more than 65,000 people last June to Gibbons, Alta., will be hosted on land owned by the Penticton Indian Band, adjacent to Skaha Meadows. Dates for next year’s festival are Aug. 1 to 3.

A traditionally rock-heavy show with electronic dance music, featured 40 bands and 40 DJs to entertain crowds in 2013. Kobza said the Penticton festival would be scaled back with a focus on rock, indie-rock, reggae and electronic dance music. He added powering up the concert will not be an issue as they rely on generators and they did lease the PIB side of Skaha beach with plans to host some events there. Announcements on the 2014 lineup for Penticton have not yet been made.

“I think we are going to have a bit of genre change. We are going to try and cover a lot of the genres other than country, which is a huge market out here but for Boonstock we are going to focus on those other genres. We are in negotiations with a lot of artists but we haven’t signed a deal yet with anyone,” said Kobza.

In September, Boonstock, usually held on the Canada Day weekend, was told by Sturgeon County Council they could no longer host the festival on the property owned by the event producer. This was due to complaints over traffic, crime and garbage. Kobza said he tripled spending on security in the past two years, paying $75,000 last summer. He said it was definitely disappointing when he found out the festival could not go on there.

“I think they made the wrong decision. Less than one per cent of people at Boonstock did cause a problem. I know the community of Gibbons was definitely not in favour of their decision, but because we were situated in the county they had the say. There is a new leaf and we are a very well-prepared festival that is focused a lot on safety and follow the policies and procedures,” said Kobza. “We are not going to let Penticton down, that is for sure.”

One of the ways he plans to ensure the event is a success is by toning down the size and scale of the event for the first couple of years.

“The Boonstock team has been doing this for nine years and we know you can’t just come into Penticton and have a festival of 10 to 15,000 people. I think we need to plan small and hope for big and be careful with our budget, spending and learn the economy here,” said Kobza.

According to Kobza, Boonstock generated more than $1 million in jobs, buying supplies from local businesses and donations to local charities, since the inception of the festival.

“We are really going to be focusing on the community working with organizations and charities so everyone can have a really good experience with the festival. We will be reaching out to a lot of people in the next couple of months and it definitely will be a good economic boost for the region,” he said.

With a list of potential places to move the festival in Alberta and B.C., Kobza chose Penticton because of its beautiful location. It also happens to be a place where he has spent many vacations and also where he met his wife. He said Max Picton, Travis Kruger Tim Lezard and the Penticton Indian Band have been instrumental in being able to make the move.

Picton, president of Barefoot Beach Resort, said he was contacted by Kobza in his search for a new site and pitched Penticton to him because it fits with his vision of what he wants for the city.

“That is to showcase the community and to get us back out there. You get the marketing power of a major festival out there pushing our city and it just goes so far. It is a fantastic opportunity from that standpoint,” said Picton.

Picton said it is also a great opportunity, not only for his newly established business but for all businesses in Penticton.

“They want to make it about the day tours and getting people out to experience Penticton as a whole. They don’t want to just hold people on the festival site and milk all their cash. They want people to come to the festival, go out on day trips, float the channel and go on wine tours,” said Picton. “Really I think that aspect of what they are doing is going to make it more beneficial to everyone in the community and draw in a lot more community support because of that.”

While there have been recent failed attempts at establishing music festivals in the city, such as Rock The Peach and Sound of Summer, Picton thinks Boonstock will be a success if the planning is right.

“I think Colin is very realistic in his expectations. They are taking a name that has nine years of good will in Gibbons, Alta. and grown it into a massive festival. He is taking that success but being realistic in the jump over here. They realize in making this move it is going to be a step back and they are planning for that, whereas a lot of people who have come in with unrealistic expectations think they are just going to blow up and take off on year one. The proper planning is what is going to make this a success or not,” said Picton.

An impending shift of dates for Kelowna’s Centre of Gravity means Boonstock will not be directly competing with the popular event, however, it will be held on the same weekend as the Big Valley Jamboree, a country music festival held in Camrose, Alta.

The Boonstock website is already selling tickets for Aug. 1 to 3 festival. They are also showing attendees can camp (RVs, tents, campers and vehicles), with up to six people staying on neighbouring sites to the venue.  Presale passes are on sale now with a weekend general admission pass at $200 and a VIP weekend pass at $300.