PENTICTON - Next year's Boonstock music festival will benefit Penticton, supporters say, but already it faces a council looking for more security assurances in the long shadow of a 22-year-old riot.
The Boonstock Music and Arts Festival is billed as western Canada's largest music festival and for nine years its home was Sturgeon County, AB. It features rock and metal bands, electronica musicians and DJs, folk groups and alternative artists, attracting up to 45,000 fans during its annual three to four day run.
After Sturgeon County council banned the concert from staging on a property near Gibbons, northeast of Edmonton, over complaints of trash, traffic and drug use, producer Colin Kobza went looking for a new home and found it on Penticton Indian Band land. Kobza has said he plans to scale back the concert for its first year and wants it capped at 6,000 to 8,000 people.
The concert has the support of Penticton Indian Band Chief Jonathan Kruger, Travis Kruger and Barefoot Beach Resort co-owner Max Picton. The three say the music festival means opportunity for the band as well as the city.
"I think it would be a good idea and nice to have entertainment," the chief said. "As long as it's done in a safe manner."
"It's going to be awesome," Travis Kruger added. He's been instrumental in getting the concert to the reserve, and he is excited to share the news. "I've been holding this in for quite awhile now."
Kobza met with city leadership on Tuesday but the meeting left Mayor Garry Litke with reservations.
"The idea is great," the mayor said. "When they came in, we thought it was wonderful. There are all kinds of opportunities for local businesses to serve breakfast and lunch. This would be a nice boost for our community. If it's done well, by all means, we are open for business."
Council just needs more information. Litke wants details on emergency medical services, traffic calming and private security forces before it agrees to have RCMP provide additional support. The concert is slated to take place on the reserve but the city has a say in how the RCMP assigns resources.
Litke said if anything were to happen the city would get the blame so liability and security are huge concerns for council.
The mayor also wondered about the concert taking place on the August long weekend.
"Three days ago they came in with a glossy brochure," he said, and the concert was booked for Aug. 1, 2 and 3. "And we said whoa-whoa-whoa. Have you talked with the RCMP?"
Litke said Insp. Kevin Hewco hasn't heard anything.
Sgt. Rick Dellebuur said concert staff had visited the detachment last year and this past summer but the officer would like more information.
"We want to know what the plans are, who is attending and their security. Just so we know so we can plan. We have to take all that into consideration."
Litke said the inspector had doubts they could find the necessary manpower to police this concert.
"That's their busiest weekend of the year. Where could you find 10 more officers to police the event?" he asked, calling no police support a deal-breaker.
"Rock the Peach did it all perfectly. They consulted the neighbourhood. They had the security plan in place, the marketing plan in place. It was beautifully executed," he said, even though it wasn't as successful as promoters hoped.
One thing Litke is not concerned with is a possible repeat of the riot that broke out during the 1991 Penticton Peach Festival which featured an MC Hammer concert.
Since news broke about Boonstock the mayor has heard people grumbling about riot concerns but he said things are different now.
"That's sort of out there in the background. Twenty years ago we didn't know how to plan such an event. The city wasn't ready for it. We have in the past rejected similar proposals and we now approve the ones well-planned and well-thought out."
Litke said he would like to see concert officials come back to council and bring more information but no date has been set.
Travis Kruger is one person with a lot of confidence in Boonstock. He was impressed when he visited last year's concert and said it's not a fly-by-night operation.
"There's been a lot of things in Penticton not planned as well as Boonstock," he explained.
The 2013 concert had crowd displacement, contingency plans, a professional security force and an army of staff and volunteers working before, during and after the show.
"I cannot stress enough how professional they are," Kruger said. There'll also be business opportunities, spaces for vendors as well as events geared towards families and youth.
Like Litke, Kruger doesn't believe there'll be an encore performance of the 1991 riot.
"I never want a black eye like that. It killed our tourism. They were things that went on that never recovered," he said and called Boonstock a good first step in bringing large outdoor shows to the area.
Picton said Kobza is well aware of the 1991 riot. Like Litke and Kruger, Picton doesn't believe that can happen again. Penticton is a different city than it was 22 years ago.
"The entire town was a wild crazy party then. The lack of control was everywhere. It was a different time and a different era. It's not that way anymore," Picton said, but called it "really frustrating" when people still bring that up.
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