Boonstock Music and Arts Festival promoters and stakeholders are still divided with only months left until the event.
“There is a multitude of issues surrounding this. It is a work in progress,” said Supt. Kevin Hewco, at a recent Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen meeting. “There is a meeting of all the stakeholders planned for June 4 where we have provided quite a lengthy list of recommendations to the promoters group of what we need to see in place for this thing to fly, and there are plenty of them.”
Hewco said it is up to the concert planners to demonstrate they can hold the festival safely. They have yet to see a finalized plan, he said. “Every stakeholder that has been engaged in this says the same thing, that these guys are months behind,” said Hewco.
RCMP are assuming the event is going to happen. A call letter was put out to off-duty Mounties around the province and possibly Alberta who would want to work the event for overtime. Hewco said local RCMP officers are busy that weekend and taxpayers will not be paying for them to respond to any Boonstock issues.
He added they are expecting policing costs to be paid up front by the Penticton Indian Band, who will then turn to the promoter to be compensated. RCMP will also play a role in Boonstock obtaining a liquor licence.
“I can tell you they have a lot of hoops to jump over to secure a liquor licence and we are one of the players in that and they are far from achieving that, so stay tuned I guess,” said Hewco.
Barb Haynes, Boonstock operations director, said the Aug. 1 to 3 festival is a big event with a lot of moving pieces and she and the promoter, Colin Kobza, are going through every step in detail to make sure they have everyone’s needs and safety in mind.
Permission to use the leased land has been granted by Penticton Indian Band council with promoters dealing with issues as they come up. This differs from a hypothetical concert being held within the City of Penticton limits, where certain bylaws are already in place that they would have to adhere to before council granting the usage, including RCMP staffing in place.
“It is different being on the PIB lands, but (Kobza) and I agreed from the beginning that even if technically it may not be required, that is not how we want to run this event,” said Haynes. “We want it to be the kind of event the community and the PIB is proud of.”
Haynes said Boonstock are working closely with the PIB to set protocols that will go forward for any possible other events looking to use the land. She says plans are being made for fire suppression, Interior Health inspections, professional traffic flagging, added security personnel and lifeguards.
While Haynes has heard grumblings within the community about the amount of young people expected and the past history of Boonstock, including that it was essentially pushed out of its original location in Alberta by their municipal government because of concerns of public safety, she said this is a different situation and inviting a different demographic.
“There has been a lot of people challenging the event. Yes, it’s not for everyone but I see the value in the market coming here and the value of encouraging these 20 and 30 somethings coming to be a part of Penticton. It will be nice to see Penticton full again,” she said.
“A lot of people talked about the history of the event and history is a great teacher and teaches us what we don’t want and the direction we need to go. We are really holding everything to a high standard here.”
On Wednesday, the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce announced its support of Boonstock, specifically the planning Boonstock Festival organizers have done to satisfy concerns of transportation, security and emergency services.
“It is attracting a younger demographic, one that may be visiting Penticton for the first time. We have an opportunity to welcome them and turn them into repeat visitors,” said Campbell Watt, chamber president.
The chamber is hosting an open forum for members on June 19 to participate in an open dialogue with Boonstock organizers.
-With files from Joe Fries