Finances fizzle for Penticton festival

Creditors getting anxious over money still owed from July’s Rock the Peach festival in Penticton

A small crowd watches one of the performances at the Rock the Peach festival in Penticton this summer. Some of the festival’s creditors still have not been paid for the event.

A small crowd watches one of the performances at the Rock the Peach festival in Penticton this summer. Some of the festival’s creditors still have not been paid for the event.

Some creditors of a summer music festival in Penticton are worried they will never be paid, and one of them says the city should require a cash bond from the next group it allows to hold such an event.

Shortly after the close of the inaugural Rock the Peach festival on July 29, organizers sent letters to creditors asking for a 90-day grace period to pay their bills.

Willi Jahnke of iRock Entertainment, a company created to stage the three-day festival, told the Western News in August that six creditors were owed a total of about $100,000.

He said organizers lost the $400,000 they put into the event because total attendance was only about a third of the 14,000 people they expected, thanks to stormy weather on opening night. High ticket prices and a muddled mix of musical genres were also cited as audience-limiting factors.

Jahnke didn’t respond to phone messages or emails this week, nor did Chris Briere or Carl Nystrom, the two other directors of iRock Entertainment.

That has Andy Soltesz worried.

His company, ColossoVision Canada, supplied video production services and giant LED screens to the event and is owed about $13,000. Soltesz said Jahnke told him last week that iRock Entertainment will likely go under, leaving its suppliers holding the bag.

If it does fold, Allan Stubenvoll will be out about $1,800 his Calgary-based business, Cal-Comm, is owed for rental of 65 two-way radios used by festival staff.

Stubenvoll said via email that Nystrom asked that the tab be billed to his personal credit card following the festival, but the charge was later declined by the credit card company. Stubenvoll said he received the notice asking for 90-days’ grace, but has since been unable to contact anyone involved with iRock Entertainment.

At least one band claims it’s had similar problems.

Dan Tanner, the booking agent for Good for Grapes, said via email the Surrey-based folk band was paid $750 for an afternoon performance and told a cheque for another $750 would be mailed later; it never arrived.

“I have since contacted one member of the festival who now cannot be contacted,” Tanner said. “I find their conduct in this whole situation a disgrace to the festival circuit, and as a community you should not let them put on the festival in 2013 — it’s an embarrassment.”

Soltesz said the City of Penticton, which was paid in advance for rental of Kings Park, should ask more of promoters who hope to turn a profit in the community.

“It’s getting to a point with some of these festivals where I think cities… need to start taking a bond from these people because they’re asking suppliers to become the risk-takers, which we don’t want to be,” Soltesz said. “We’ve got to start protecting suppliers.”

Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton was cool to the idea.

“I sympathize sincerely with any individual that has outstanding debt with these folks,” Ashton said. “But you can’t be the guardian to everybody on it. Business is about taking risks.”

That goes for Jahnke’s outfit, too.

“This gentleman had a track record in Nakusp and got hit with an inclement weekend” in Penticton, Ashton said. “That’s one of the risks.”

Soltesz said he didn’t view Rock the Peach as a risky venture because he considered Jahnke a friend and had supplied him for years without issue at the Nakusp Music Fest, which folded following the 2011 edition.

“I’ve always known (Jahnke) to be very honest, upfront,” said Soltesz. “He never gave us a reason to believe otherwise.”