Boonstock organizers say festival is a go

New security company in place and volunteer medical personnel are lined all lined up for festival that's just three weeks away

Colin Kobza (right)

Colin Kobza (right)

Whether it’s just a bumpy ride for a new festival or, as Boonstock organizers complain, the festival is being held to a higher standard, organizers are saying they are back on track for the B.C. Day long weekend.

At a forum Tuesday evening sponsored by the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, Barb Haynes, director of operations for the Boonstock Music and Arts Festival, announced they have contracted a new security company to replace International Crowd Management.

“The safety and security of everyone who attends this event … has always been my paramount priority,” said Colin Kobza, president of Boonstock Productions, in a release issued just prior to the forum.

The forum was a chance for Boonstock organizers to give the business community a progress update, starting with the signing of a new agreement with 24/7 Security Ltd. out of Aldergrove.

Boonstock signed an agreement with International Crowd Management in January, but on June 27, ICM terminated that agreement, citing health and safety concerns with the Boonstock safety plan. According to ICM, Boonstock had told them they wanted less security guards and no lifeguards or first aid/paramedic personnel.

“What impressed us the most when we first spoke with 24/7 Security Ltd. was their readiness to work with our local event and security professionals. Penticton is a festival city and we have some of the finest water safety, event security and medical experts in B.C., perhaps in Canada,” said director of operations Barb Haynes in the same release.

According to Haynes, 24/7 Security has experience with large events and has handled security for the Rockin River Music Festival in Mission and the Abbotsford Air Show. For Boonstock, there will be eight stations of security teams on site around the perimeter and in the PIB community.

There will also be 40 RCMP officers on hand, at Boonstock’s expense. Haynes complained the RCMP was setting the bar too high, and other festivals were only required to have ratios of one RCMP member to every 400 or 500 festival goers. Penticton RCMP, however, have insisted on a 1 in 200 ratio, equalling about 40 officers, according to Haynes.

The new security company will only be securing the licensed areas and Boonstock will rely on local and regional specialists to provide “first aid/paramedical services, lifeguards, floating cork line and rescue/safety boats,” the services ICM said Boonstock didn’t want them to supply.

That includes 80 medical personnel, two-thirds of which Haynes said would be volunteers from across the country.

“This is a better plan. We had one clinic, we now have one with two satellites and the level of people coming, I have RNs LPNs, emergency physicians, paramedics, I have all their licences,” said Haynes. “The number astounded me. Yes, we are going to use those individuals, because they are qualified medical personnel.”

Haynes said she began investigating alternatives to working with ICM a few weeks before the company terminated, explaining that “it wasn’t feeling as it should.”

“There were a few companies out there who were eager for the business and were eager to partner with us,” said Haynes, noting that the owner of 24/7, Lucky Dhaliwal, had been in Penticton over the weekend to go over the festival site.

“He literally stayed up all night last night to get his package to me this morning (Tuesday),” said Haynes. The rush was necessary to meet a deadline set by the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch for Boonstock to have a robust security plan in place by July 8 in order to qualify for a liquor licence.

“Boonstock is going forward regardless. I am confident that all of the information we have provided and the responses I have had back this afternoon, which I will just leave it at that, are good,” said Haynes.

RCMP has yet to approve the security plan, which is also necessary for LCLB to approve a liquor licence, but Haynes expects that to happen in the next few days. According to an LCLB spokesperson, an liquor license application usually requires two to four weeks to process after receiving RCMP approval.

While most of the crowd was in support of the Boonstock festival, there were a few that had concerns, including Hannah Hyland.

“The unfortunate thing is the kind of activities that are promoted at a big party like this is something that you can not control. There is a good reason why Alberta is very displeased with this,” said Hyland. “You are good people and you believe this is going to be different. What will make it different?”

Hyland said she was not against growth, but was concerned about Boonstock, which was banned from its original location in Gibbons, Alta. last year after RCMP had to respond to 11 overdose calls, 11 assault with weapon calls, three impaired-driving complaints, two sexual assaults and two hit-and-run complaints along with 45 drug seizures, 56 arrests and 2,000 verbal warnings for unlawful liquor consumption.

Hyland left the meeting unconvinced.

“I would certainly like to see things develop around here. “I expected more of Barb Haynes. It certainly shows her skills in organization, she is marvellous at that. And she certainly convinced most of the people here, but my fears were not dismissed,” said Hyland.

Kobza only spoke a few times at the meeting, though he did address the Gibbons experience in his closing remarks.

“Boonstock in Gibbons was not out of control. There was some situations with traffic and yes, there was parts of crime and some situations but Boonstock in Gibbons was not an unsafe event,” said Kobza.

Haynes said 7,200 tickets have already been sold, and they expected to easily reach the 8,500 visitors per day mark they have been planning for by the time the gates open for the August long weekend.