Boonstock banned temporarily by Sturgeon County
Music festival hiatus could be permanent
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013 06:00 am
Sturgeon County council put a temporary ban on the Boonstock music festival last week, and a permanent ban may be next.
Council voted 4-2 in favour of a motion from Karen Shaw to, in the interest of public safety, deny permits for large special events involving over 2,000 people until the county's Assemblage Control bylaw was updated. Councillors David Kluthe and Don McGeachy were opposed, while Mayor Don Rigney was absent.
After that vote, Coun. Tom Flynn gave notice that he would bring forward a motion this Sept. 24 that, if passed, would permanently ban Boonstock from its current location near Gibbons.
Shaw's motion effectively bans all outdoor public events in the county that involve more than 2,000 people, and will remain in place until the assemblage control bylaw is revised.
Deputy chief administrative officer Ian McKay said it would be optimistic to expect such revisions to be ready for council by the end of the year.
Of the three events that currently receive assemblage permits in the county, only one involves more than 2,000 people: the Boonstock Music & Arts Festival. (Even though it passes through the county, the Tour de l'Alberta “assembles” in Legal, McKay said, so it does not require an assemblage permit.)
Shaw refused to admit that her motion had anything to do with Boonstock, even though she said that she made sure before raising it that it would not affect the Poundmaker powwow or the Nechi Institute's graduation – the only other two events issued assemblage permits in the county.
“It's got nothing to do with Boonstock,” she said in an interview. “There's nothing in that motion that even has Boonstock's name in it.”
Kluthe, speaking in council, disagreed, and accused Shaw of playing politics. “It's not rocket science to figure out who (this motion) is meant for.”
McGeachy agreed, and worried that this could affect other events as well. “It's a thinly veiled shot at Boonstock.”
Shaw's motion appears to have been prompted by ongoing concerns about trash, crime and traffic problems linked to Boonstock.
A report to council last August found that the event lead to 41 hospitalizations, 56 arrests, a drug bust, thousands of verbal warnings, and traffic jams up to eight kilometres long on local highways. Residents were also outraged that two people broke into a nearby occupied home after they left the event.
The assemblage bylaw is 30 years old and out of date, Shaw said, when asked in an interview about her motion. “It's a motion to address public safety, and until it is addressed, any event of over 2,000 people (will not) occur.”
Colin Kobza, Boonstock's organizer, said this was an attempt by Couns. Tom Flynn and Karen Shaw to run his business out of town. “What did Boonstock do wrong?” he said.
The Big Valley Jamboree has drugs and traffic problems too, Kobza said, yet it's not getting shut down because of them. “Karen Shaw doesn't like Colin Kobza. That's her problem. It's personal,” he said. “This is about Boonstock and Karen (Shaw's) hate for Boonstock.”
Staffers are already deep into planning for Boonstock 2014, Kobza said, and this ban meant that they couldn't put their early-bird tickets up for sale. “It's very brand-damaging, and for what reason? A break-in? For traffic? The (Gibbons) town-wide garage sale had traffic.”
Boonstock has been a great success, Kobza said, and the county should be proud of it. He planned to speak to council about the festival on Sept. 24. “We're hoping we can continue to run Boonstock in the county for the duration of its life.”
He had no alternative site on which to host the event. “It's not that easy to just pick up a festival and move it.”