Boonstock organizers say they are not treated fairly

Organizers say government authorities unfairly holding them to higher measures than other Penticton area events.

Organizers for the Boonstock Music and Arts Festival said they are being unfairly measured by government authorities.

“Enormously. They have held us to things that you just wouldn’t do with anybody else. Why?” said festival operations director Barb Haynes.

While the Penticton Peach Festival, Penticton Pacific Northwest Elvis Festival and Peach City Beach Cruise have been running their events for years, with seemingly not as many hurdles, Haynes said she doesn’t think it is the fact those events have a long history with the city.

“It doesn’t matter. Times have changed, things are different. No, I don’t think (the history) is that at all,” said Haynes. “Unfairly treated? Yes, I believe there is a different set of rules for Boonstock than there is for any other festival or event here in our region or community, absolutely.”

The Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce announced in May they are standing behind Boonstock because they believe it will generate a big economic impact for Penticton, with 8,500 people expected to attend the Aug. 1 to 3 event held on private locatee lands on the Penticton Indian Reserve. The board also stood by the Boonstock organizers’ preparation for the event. In an letter to the Western News editor, president of the chamber, Campbell Watt, said Boonstock is being “forced” to go above and beyond in their preparations than similar festivals in Pemberton and Squamish.

“This festival is facing demands to meet an unheard of level of preparation, not seen by festivals in other jurisdictions around British Columbia,” he said.

He said the average amount of RCMP officers required at a festival or event is one per 500 attendees, Boonstock is being “forced” to have one officer per 200 attendees. Boonstock organizers confirmed on Thursday they have 40 RCMP officers they are hiring for the event.

“It is unfortunate that one event is subjected to a significantly higher standard, particularly when they are located on our neighbouring community,” said Watt.

Having attended a recent update from Boonstock to the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen protective services committee, Watt said he can attest to the significant planning Boonstock organizers have completed.

“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,” said Watt.

In his email, Campbell said the community must recognize the investment that has gone into creating festival grounds for the area and that a corporate citizen provided it without “burdening taxpayers to build it.”

“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,” said Watt.

The Boonstock Entertainment and Arts Society has applied for their liquor licence but haven’t heard back as to what the results are yet. Haynes said organizers are now down to the “nitty gritty” details of completing all their safety plans.

In a document provided to the Penticton Western News, and confirmed by the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch as a preliminary draft, there appeared to be a number of safety concerns left for Boonstock to address. A spokesperson for the branch said since that document was written, the festival’s plan has evolved substantially and subsequent meetings have been held with event organizers.

“The LCLB will need to see evidence of a robust safety plan with RCMP approval before granting a liquor licence,” the spokesperson added.

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