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Update: Boonstock organizers say show will go on

Boonstock
Boonstock's security contractor announced today it was terminating their contract with the music festival, citing concerns over the security plan.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Organizers of the Boonstock Music and Arts Festival say the show will go on, despite an announcement by International Crowd Management this week they had terminated their service contract with the festival.

According to the ICM press release, Boonstock Productions informed the security company last week it would not be requiring several safety services, including first aid/paramedical services, lifeguards and rescue boats.

“In addition there were significant cuts to the security deployment, as well as an order to refrain from communicating directly with the RCMP and B.C. Liquor Branch,” reads the release, which is signed by ICM president Brent Pollock and notes the termination was effective June 27. Pollock confirmed Thursday that ICM has not reopened discussions with Boonstock.

In an unsigned notice posted to both Boonstock and the Western News Facebook page, festival organizers said “the festival is not under threat of being cancelled because of ICM’s withdrawal.”

The notice goes on to say that the festival is in talks with other security management companies and are confident they will find a provider to meet the needs of attendees, the RCMP and the community.

Boonstock organizers have not responded to a number of phone calls placed since ICM made its announcement Wednesday, but the Western News questioned festival operations director Barb Haynes Monday about Boonstock’s relationship with ICM.

Haynes said then that negotiations were continuing with ICM to develop a security plan for the upcoming music festival, though she refused to comment further on the security situation at that time, saying she will only talk about “the fun stuff,” when it comes to the event, which is planned for Aug. 1 to 3 on Penticton Indian Band lands.

“If it’s fun stuff, I am all there,” said Haynes. “There is just so much misinformation out there because everyone is telling all kinds of stories.”

Haynes also maintained Monday that Boonstock was “good to go” and “doing what we need to do.”

Penticton city Coun. Katie Robinson, liaison to the city’s protective services committee, raised concerns last week about the festival’s security planning. Robinson said she was choosing her words carefully, but now that ICM has pulled out, the time has come to be blunt.

“I believe this event is a disaster looking for somewhere to happen,” said Robinson, who is concerned that the same problems with violence, drugs and trash that led to Boonstock being banned from their original home in Gibson, Alta., last year would follow it to Penticton.

“It is shocking to me that more people are not concerned,” said Robinson.

Mayor Garry Litke pointed out that since Boonstock is taking place outside of the city on Penticton Indian Band lands, city council has no jurisdiction, though he does have concerns.

“We just want to make sure our community and the people who come here as tourists are safe and that there is adequate security, that has been my position since day one,” said Litke. “Now it is quite disturbing to see that a company which could have provided that level of security and that comfort level is not willing to participate in Boonstock.”

The language in the ICM is blunt, laying out their concerns that Boonstock’s safety planning was insufficient.

“After serious consideration, ICM decided that with the sudden and significant changes to the safety plan without consultation with ICM or the various city, provincial or federal stakeholders were unacceptable and at the very least, placed health and safety concerns and our professional reputation in jeopardy.”

Coun. Helena Konanz attended a tour of the Boonstock site Wednesday morning, where they were also told the security planning was in hand.

“I really thought they had their security together from all reports, including our last meeting,” said Konanz, referring to a closed door meeting between council and festival officials on June 25. ICM terminated their service agreement on June 27. However, Konanz remains supportive of the festival.

“The tour was fantastic and I think it is going to be great site,” said Konanz. “I believe the organizers are trying to put together a good event. I can’t tell you what has happened with the security, but it needs to be addressed immediately.”

The festival may take place without a liquor licence, however. According to a spokesperson for the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, Boonstock’s organizers have been given until July 8 to produce a robust safety plan for the RCMP and the LCLB to review, in order to obtain a license to serve alcohol.

Despite being held on First Nations land, if the organizers want to run Boonstock as a licensed event, they need approval from both the RCMP and the LCLB. The plan must include comprehensive and detailed strategies on how any potential risks will be managed.

According to the LCLB, planning for events like Boonstock should begins a year ahead in advance to give enough time to develop a comprehensive safety plan.

“In terms of approval for a liquor licence, the LCLB generally requires three to six months for more complex events, allowing enough time to review the safety plan and work with organizers to mitigate any potential concerns,” said the LCLB spokesperson. “Once the police have approved a security plan, the LCLB generally requires two to four weeks to process.”

Cary Schneiderat is treasurer of the non-profit Boonstock Entertainment and Arts Society, which is working in tandem with Boonstock Productions to handle the liquor licence application. He said the clock is ticking on their application.

“We’re quickly running out of time, but we are not giving up,” said Schneiderat, adding that the society thinks Boonstock is being held to higher scrutiny than similar festivals.

The society’s board of directors, he continued, is made up of a lot of community members with experience in similar projects.

“We have worked with the authorities, we have worked with liquor (LCLB), we have worked with the RCMP in other communities and in this community,” said Schneiderat. “From our perspective, this event seems to be treated differently for some reason. That criteria should be applied equally across the board, it shouldn’t be whose name is on it. It shouldn’t be because of where it is.”

Schneiderat is concerned that if Boonstock goes ahead without a liquor license, it might result in worse problems.

“Instead of it being regulated in a safe manner … there is going to be people now that are going to be drinking at their campsite, there are going to be people that are coming into Penticton, because if they can’t drink at the venue they are going to come into town and our fear is that, in itself, is going to be a worse scenario.”

Cam Watt, president of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, wrote a letter to the Western News last week, expressing similar concerns to Schneiderat, that Boonstock was being treated unfairly. The chamber, he said, isn’t backing away from it’s support of the festival, despite the ICM announcement.

“Overall, we do still stand behind Boonstock,” said Watt. “We still think it is going to be a well-received event, well-secured and frankly it is 8,000 people coming to town where at least half of them are staying somewhere other than the campground, which means by simple deduction they are staying in hotels, eating in our restaurants and providing dollars to our businesses, so as a business organization, we still stand behind it.”

*****

Posted: July 2

Boonstock was handed another setback Wednesday when security firm International Crowd Management announced they were terminating their service agreement with the upcoming music festival.

According to the ICM press release obtained by the Western News, Boonstock Productions informed the security company last week they would not be requiring several safety services, including first aid/paramedical services and lifeguards.

“In addition there were significant cuts to the security deployment, as well as an order to refrain from communicating directly with the RCMP and B.C. Liquor Branch,” reads the release, which is signed by ICM president Brent Pollock.

The language in the ICM is blunt, laying out their concerns that Boonstock’s safety planning was insufficient. 

“After serious consideration, ICM decided that with the sudden and significant changes to the safety plan without consultation with ICM or the various city, provincial or federal stakeholders were unacceptable and at the very least, placed health and safety concerns and our professional reputation in jeopardy.”

Coun. Katie Robinson, Penticton city council’s liaison to the protective services committee, raised concerns last week about the festival’s security planning. Robinson said she was choosing her words carefully, but now that the ICM has pulled out, the time has come to be blunt.

“I believe this event is a disaster looking for somewhere to happen,” said Robinson, who is concerned that the same problems with violence, drugs and trash that led to Boonstock being banned from their original home in Gibson, Alta last year would follow it to Penticton.

“It is shocking to me that more people are not concerned,” said Robinson.

Boonstock organizers have not been available for comment on how they plan to handle this setback, but the Western News questioned festival operations director Barb Haynes Monday about Boonstock's relationship with ICM.

Haynes said then that negotiations were continuing with ICM to develop a security plan for the upcoming music festival, though she refused to comment further on the security situation at that time, saying she will only talk about “the fun stuff,” when it comes to the event, which is planned for Aug. 1 to 3 on Penticton Indian Band lands.

“If it’s fun stuff, I am all there,” said Haynes. “There is just so much misinformation out there because everyone is telling all kinds of stories.”

Haynes also said Monday that Boonstock was “good to go” and “doing what we need to do.”

The RCMP have expressed concerns about the Boonstock security plan, and last month organizers for the festival complained their planning was being unfairly measured by government authorities.

 

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