No replacement for Kelowna’s Keloha Music Festival found

Despite reserving early July dates for a new-look replacement for Keloha, its producer said no format worked financially.

There won’t be a replacement for the Keloha Music Festival in Kelowna this year.

The producer of the popular indie festival, which ran from 2011 to 2013 in Waterfront Park but was cancelled last year because it failed to turn a  profit, said despite looking at different formats for a replacement, none were deemed financially feasible.

“We ran the numbers on all of (the options) but none of them worked,” said Scott Emslie, owner of Wet Ape Productions, the company behind both the Keloha Music Festival in early July and and the larger Centre of Gravity Music and Sport Festival, which takes place a few weeks later the end of July.

Emslie said Centre of Gravity will go ahead again this year, and, as was the case last year, will have a number of elements from Keloha incorporated into it. That will include more live music.

Last year, when he announced Keloha would not take place, Emslie said he had retained the July 10-12 dates for 2015 in the hope of finding a different format for the festival.

But after three years of losses and one year off, he said he could not find a format that worked. So he said he told the city he will not be hosting an event on that weekend in Waterfront Park this year.

Instead he plans to turn his attention to Centre of Gravity, which will take place July 24 to 26.

Emslie said he plans to announce the music line-up for Centre of Gravity at the end of this month.

But like Keloha, the cost of putting on Centre of Gravity remains a concern for the festival’s producer, especially the cost of providing on and off-site security.

Emslie said he has been told by the Kelowna RCMP that the $60,000 cost for policing the festival grounds and to help pay for off-site policing in the downtown after the gates close, will remain at $60,000 this year.

Unlike last year, there will not be Centre of Gravity House this year at the Kelowna Curling Club, an after-hours party spot for festival goers. By eliminating that site, Emslie said he will save about $10,000 in security costs.

But security is just part of the financial picture for him.

Last year, he reportedly faced bills of $7,500 to have bylaw officers tour the festival site area, $12,000 for  B.C. Ambulance crews to be stationed on site, and park rental fees of $25,000, payable to the city. And then there was the cost of lining up the musical and sport talent festival goes show up to see.

Emslie said while he was relieved to hear there would be no increase in policing costs this year, he noted that there had been a hike every year since the festival started prior to that.

“The bill last year was the biggest we have ever had to pay,” he said, adding he was concerned about the annual increases.

Centre of Gravity, which traditionally drew a younger and more boisterous crowd than Keloha, will see more live music again this year but Emslie said there will still be plenty electronic dance music on offer, both recorded and live.

“It will still be a high-energy show,” he predicted.