Majority of businesses, residents happy with Pemberton Music Festival 

RCMP satisfied with event overall, despite one violent incident

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - festive faces About 180,000 people attended the 2016 Pemberton Music Festival from July 14 to 17 — about 45,000 per day.
  • photo by braden dupuis
  • festive faces About 180,000 people attended the 2016 Pemberton Music Festival from July 14 to 17 — about 45,000 per day.

On the Monday morning following the Pemberton Music Festival, which took place July 14 to 17, there were some unmistakable signs of increased business in the village.

"I went into town and the Blackbird is closed, Grimm's is closed... and they're closed because they've run out of stuff to sell, and that is marvellous," said Russell Mack, Area C director with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

"I know the McDonald's, they brought in 25 extra people to help out, and on Monday, they sold six times their normal Monday."

For the most part it was another successful festival, though some residents did take to social media to voice their complaints.

But you can't please them all, Mack said.

"It is what it is," he said. "I did go on Facebook, and I would say for every one of those (negative comments) there's 50 positives from locals, and when I talked to local people this past week they just thought it was wonderful."

Pavlo Liakakos is firmly on the positive side.

Liakakos is one of about 30 homeowners in Pemberton's "Plateau" neighbourhood, immediately adjacent to the festival grounds.

"Really, I only heard two neighbours that were upset," Liakakos said. "For the one weekend a year of disruption, I'm all for the festival. It's a no-brainer. It brings in a lot of money to the stores, to businesses in the valley and I think it's great."

One area Liakakos said the festival could improve on for future years is around organization — particularly around shuttle wait times, and keeping people from walking on the highway.

"Some accident is going to happen, you know what I mean? Somebody is going to get hit... there is a lot of traffic, so that they have to straighten out," he said.

"We had to wait over an hour for the shuttle, but I didn't mind. My wife got a little upset, but I'm going, 'Hey you know, it's a festival. I've been going to festivals since 1966, so I know it's a real, pardon my French, but it's a shitshow sometimes."

A one-hour wait would be bearable for most, but some attendees were left stranded for much longer on the day the campgrounds opened, due to traffic issues caused by highway closures in Whistler.

Kaila Maddalo and her friends — and hundreds of other festivalgoers — waited in line for a shuttle for nine hours with all of their camping gear after being told by the festival to prepare for a 15- to 30-minute walk.

"We didn't even make it on a bus, we found a local couple to drive us around hour nine, and then we had to carry all of our things for another 20-minute walk to the campsite in the dark," she wrote in a comment on Pique's website.

"People were crying, people were screaming that they hate Pemberton, people were throwing up from the stress to their bodies, it was awful...

"I had an amazing time after that, I genuinely did, the shows were perfect and I'm thankful my friends and I stayed positive and healthy throughout the weekend, but I won't be going back."

Other commenters on social media sites like Reddit and Twitter shared similar sentiments — the festival itself was amazing, but the lack of organization was enough to make sure they don't come back — though positive comments seemed to outweigh the negative.

Huka Entertainment PR rep Teresa Trovato said the festival communicates with fans on site via customer-service booths and through its social media channels, as well as through post-fest surveys, the results of which help improve on things for future years.

"Huka is constantly working to improve the fan experience — it's one of the reasons the festival's audience keeps growing," she said in an email. "The process never ends. They pay more attention to the things that don't go perfectly. They optimize some things on the fly and some things, they redesign operationally for the next year."

The festival went off without major incident until the early hours of Monday morning, when police were called to the employee camping area of the festival to deal with an incident between two people employed with the festival.

"The short story is that the suspect was asked to leave the tent and he didn't, so he was removed from the tent, and then he came back later and stabbed somebody, and there is some pretty significant injuries," said Sgt. Rob Knapton of the Whistler RCMP.

The suspect allegedly stabbed the victim — a 21-year-old West Vancouver man — in the head with a pair of scissors.

A 23-year-old man faces one charge of aggravated assault in relation to the incident. He made his first court appearance on July 19 and will be back in court on Aug. 23.

In total, police arrested 53 people and dealt with 209 offences associated with the event, Knapton said.

Included in those were 48 disturbances, 33 drug possession offences, 26 assaults, 25 grossly intoxicated people, 14 traffic files, nine reported missing people, eight reports of theft, and two reports of sexual assault.

Local RCMP brought in extra resources from the Lower Mainland, the Interior and as far away as Kelowna and Cranbrook to help out with the event, but overall things went fairly smoothly, Knapton said.

"We didn't have any real concerns that came along with it," he said. "I was quite happy with the reports that we got back as far as the event and how it was dealt with and how our members dealt with it."

Tourism Pemberton is also very happy with the event, said president Mark Mendonca in an email. The organization was able to showcase some of its videos during the festivals.

"Our guests were able to see what our little community has to offer. The hope is over the years to come we will see the festivalgoers return to enjoy more than just music," Mendonca wrote. "The festival presents (a promotional) opportunity that Tourism Pemberton could never afford financially. We look forward to 2017."



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