Sturgeon County permanently bans Boonstock festival
We'll be back, vows organizer – elsewhere
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013 02:15 pm
Boonstock’s time in Sturgeon County is over, said its organizer after county council put an indefinite ban on it, but it will be back bigger than ever next year at a new site.
County council voted 6-0 in favour of a motion from Coun. Tom Flynn Tuesday to no longer issue permits for the Boonstock Music & Arts Festival at its current site near Gibbons. Coun. David Kluthe was absent.
The ban follows on a temporary one issued last week by council at the behest of Coun. Karen Shaw.
And that ban followed a report to council on the event last Aug. 27 from police, highway and health officials, one that said the event led to 41 hospitalizations, 56 arrests, a drug bust, thousands of verbal warnings, and traffic jams up to eight kilometres long.
About 25 residents complained to council about the event on Aug. 27. Many were outraged that two guests at Boonstock invaded a nearby occupied home after they left the festival.
Safest Boonstock yet, says organizer
Held June 27 to 30, Boonstock drew a total of about 36,400 guests to a field two kilometres north of Gibbons – peak attendance was 11,600 per day.
Often stumbling over his words, a nervous-sounding Boonstock Productions president Colin Kobza addressed county council before the vote in defence of the festival he founded nine years ago.
“We feel it was the safest and most prepared and executed festival to date,” he said.
Boonstock’s traffic jams were “100 per cent” caused by a three-hour cellphone outage in the region, Kobza said, as their ticket system needed the Internet to work.
“When the cellphone provider restored service, we processed three cars a minute,” he said – a rate comparable to other festivals.
Emergency service personnel on site said this was the safest that Boonstock had ever been, Kobza said. Staff paid about $125,000 for a supplementary police agreement – much more than the $25,000 they did in 2012.
“The Boonstock Music and Arts Festival is not a dangerous place,” he said. “Less than one per cent of the people caused a problem.”
Kobza said his “heart sank” when he heard about the home invasion, and that he visited the affected family soon after. He criticized police for taking about 28 minutes to respond to the owner’s call.
He claimed that Shaw did not want to work with Boonstock, accused her of unprofessional conduct, and alleged that she made personal attacks against him and his family.
“Karen Shaw and Tom Flynn want to take away music and arts festivals from Sturgeon County,” Kobza said.
Kobza said he was proud of what had been built in Boonstock, noting that the festival donated about $55,000 to local charities and was attended by roughly 4,200 residents from the county and surrounding areas.
It’s a shame that this could be the last year for Boonstock in the county, he said. “I feel I was not listened to or worked with.”
Problems obvious, says council
Residents have tolerated Boonstock for nine years, Shaw said, but with this year’s home invasion, they’ve had enough.
“The deficiencies (listed) in the report are very evident, Colin, and over the years it’s been the same issues.”
“Every resident has the fundamental right to be safe and secure in their own home, and your event has removed that right,” she said. “I am representing the residents who are impacted by your event. It is not personal.”
Coun. Ken McGillis noted that Boonstock cost the county a net $33,000. It may generate spinoffs for local towns, but how does it benefit the county, he asked.
“I don’t see it as being a big economic development opportunity for Sturgeon County.”
Mayor Don Rigney supported Flynn’s motion, but said Kobza may not have been given a fair hearing as the motion was tabled before council heard from him.
Coun. Joe Milligan said he spoke to several area residents who supported Boonstock up to this point.
“This is not the place for this. It’s going to have to be moved someplace else,” Milligan said.
This motion was a tough pill to swallow, Kobza said outside of council chambers, but he wasn’t surprised by it.
“Boonstock’s life in Sturgeon County has come to an end,” he said.
But the festival itself is not done, he added. Staffers were looking for a new home for it, and he hinted about “big news” coming down the pipe in a few weeks.
“We’re going to be back and bigger,” he said.
Resident Ron Ebbers, who tabled a petition of 107 names before council on Aug. 27 calling for a ban on Boonstock at its current location, said he was relieved that council took this step.
“(Boonstock is) infringing on my rights as a Canadian for security and enjoyment of my property. That was taken away by Boonstock,” he said.
Kobza’s actions speak louder than his words, he said, when asked about Kobza’s defence of Boonstock. He said reports from experts say that Boonstock was not a well-run festival.
“It’s a threat to neighbours.”