Festival tamed by weather, timing and competition

Kelowna was flush with Center of Gravity festival goers flashing their assets and having a good time

Kelowna was flush with Center of Gravity festival goers flashing their assets and having a good time and, despite regular concerns about rowdiness, the city emerged unscathed.

“I thought it went really smoothly, the crowds were really well behaved and the guests I spoke to  said they had a ton of fun,” said Scott Emslie of Wet Ape productions, which put on the event this weekend.

What may have contributed to the calm is simply the volume of people in attendance. Ticket sales were 75 per cent of capacity.

“There are a few different reasons for that,” said Emslie, pointing to weather, competition in the festival marketplace and timing.

The festival, which combines summer sporting events with live music, used to be held on August long weekend and city council pushed it back to curb some of the more raucous behaviour that tended to ensue when the tourist and festival crowd converged.

What’s good for crowd control, however, isn’t necessarily good for business and Emslie tried to get the August long weekend slot back last year.

He’s meeting with city staff this week, and that issue could be brought up again.

“Kelowna is a tourist town and we have had a lot of success on that weekend,” he said.

Whether he’ll get the support from the community remains to be seen.

A tour through downtown Kelowna during the weekend yielded mixed reviews of the annual event.

Shop owners from several stores on Bernard Avenue said they notice their business dips when the event comes through and the streets are teeming with drunks.

“Normally on a rainy weekend we’d be packed, but nobody wants to come downtown when it’s on,” said Chantal Couture, of Funktional.

At Rivals, a Bernard Avenue pub, the event is welcomed for the business it brings, although that was markably less than expected this year.

“We weren’t anywhere nearly as busy as I thought it would be,” said Cody Chambers, the general manager.

Even festival goers were surprised by how “tame” the event ended up being.

Paolo Oliveros, Charter Li and Shawn Ryans travelled from Vancouver to attend the festival, and pointed out that it was less “crazy” than they’d heard it would be.

Oliveros said the setting was aesthetically pleasing, while Ryans noted that the staging for music left something to be desired and the  drink selection was wanting.

That said, all three were first time visitors to Kelowna and said they’d be back again to soak up some of its other amenities.

They are what beach volleyball players Cam Wheelan and Mike Plantinga believe stands out about the event.

Plantinga has been at the last four festivals, while Wheelan has been at the last six, and both said it’s a unique and welcomed event for athletes.

“There aren’t many events where you get to see other sports, too,” Plantiga said.

That said, in terms of uniqueness, there have been some changes. The event used to be entirely focused on beach volleyball, and Wheelan said the crowds used to be entirely focused on the games they were playing.

That has changed and the crowds for the sporting events continually dwindles.

But, both men said that it’s entertaining nonetheless.