Police were out of tune with the inaugural Boonstock music festival, but some attendees and business leaders said it hit the right notes.
Regardless of where readers stood on the matter, their interest in the August long weekend event easily made it the Western News’ top story of 2014.
Boonstock president Colin Kobza agreed to participate via email in a question-and-answer session for this story, but did not respond by press deadline.
He has not spoken publicly since before the 2014 festival and has not outlined plans for a 2015 version, although his company has a five-year lease at a site on the Penticton Indian Reserve.
The event was controversial from the beginning, when Kobza announced the new venue in late 2013, following a nine-year run in Alberta that drew complaints from police and politicians there.
Along with the new location, Boonstock also unveiled a new focus on electronic dance music with its March announcement of the 2014 lineup, which was headlined by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
Little other news trickled out from festival organizers until late June, when it was revealed security company ICM had pulled out due to concerns about event’s safety plan.
A replacement, 24/7 Security, was announced July 8, but Boonstock wasn’t able to address the concerns of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch in time to obtain a liquor licence for the event.
That meant no on-site beer gardens and the withdrawal of several sponsors, including Bacardi, plus a big hit to the Boonstock’s bottom line.
Despite concerns, the festival started as planned on July 31 and concluded Aug. 3.
Complaints about dust and poor organization dogged the event, and 90 people were sent to hospital, while one woman died of a suspected drug overdose.
The bill for policing topped $250,000, three-quarters of which was spent on wages, due to what Mounties described as a “gap” in private security.
But as he prepared to leave his campsite after the festival, attendee Franzi Tschurtschenthaler said he was pleased with the event overall.
“The performances were good. The stages were good. There were lots of hot babes. They did a pretty good job for their first year,” said the Kelowna man.
“I like it. It impressed me as a festival.”
The then-president of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce was also impressed.
“When you have that many extra people in town, and they didn’t create the vandalism or things that cost money instead of create money, then the worst case for a business was that they broke even or they had people come through that made them too busy,” said Campbell Watt.
“We have nothing driving that younger demographic to Penticton anymore. These kind of events, we need them to ensure that Penticton thrives and survives in 10 to 20 years and that is what we were supporting.”
Boonstock later released its own study that estimated its regional economic impact at $4.5 million, which included organizers’ local expenditure of $2.1 million. It pegged attendance at 8,600 people, 7,300 of whom were from out of town.