Pemberton Festival suffers growing pains 

Huka representative gets an earful about noise, traffic, pollution

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB LOUD/COURTESY PEMBERTON MUSIC FESTIVAL - MAKING MUSIC After three annual music festivals, Pemberton residents offered suggestions to event organizer Huka Entertainment to ensure their community is preserved.
  • photo by rob loud/courtesy Pemberton Music Festival
  • MAKING MUSIC After three annual music festivals, Pemberton residents offered suggestions to event organizer Huka Entertainment to ensure their community is preserved.

Some of the biggest issues Pemberton-area residents have with the popular summer music festival is the behaviour by concert-goers. Specifically, young people who are drunk, defecating in local rivers, verbally abusing residents, and — once it's all over — leaving mounds of detritus in their wake.

At several meetings Monday, Nov. 14 in Pemberton, Huka Entertainment representative David Buttrey delivered impressive stats and facts about the Pemberton Music festival that so far has brought in more than $15 million in spending outside the festival site, and up to 180,000 participants throughout the four-day 2016 event. Buttrey also said the festival "hasn't shown a profit."

"We really appreciate the opportunity to host this event," he said. "The traffic, the trash, the noise, those are the things we're actively trying to reduce," Buttrey told about 50 people at the Pemberton Community Centre.

Buttrey presented a short thank-you video that detailed the scope of the festival, from the 17 million impressions on social media and a reach to more than 100 million fans.

But for Tat7ush (Theresa) Peters, millions of impressions mean little.

"Lil'Wat (Nation) was an afterthought," Peters told Buttrey. "There are 2,000 people in Lil'Wat, please don't forget that the festival is held on unceded Lil'Wat territory. Are we getting the same things that Pemberton is getting?"

Specifically, the festival contributes more than $250,000 to the Pemberton Community Fund, although Peters said Lil'Wat Nation unfairly seems to be paying a price.

"You said you're promoting Pemberton as a tourist area, but people have discovered our valley through the Pemberton Music Festival and we have people going into the backcountry leaving their garbage, bathing in the river we get our dinking water from, drinking and drugging by the river. We're the ones left with the pollution when everyone leaves," she said.

Other residents told of concert-goers who would be parked outside homes, waiting for homeowners to arrive so they could ask if they could park there. Another resident was told to "get f—cked" when participants were informed they couldn't park on a neighbourhood street. Again and again, residents spoke of a youthful crowd that is disrespectful of the area and its people.

Buttrey left the two-hour meeting with a long list of questions and concerns. Among them: traffic and shuttle issues, insufficient highway lighting, the need for ongoing Temporary Use Permits on agricultural land, garbage, noise, security, plus the suggestion that local residents get a price break on VIP tickets.

Buttrey said the process for the 2017 festival has started early, and regularly scheduled meetings will be held with the community and Huka beginning next month.

And aside from concerns, residents also acknowledged the benefits of the event.

"We just had a great time," said Robert Szachury, who attended the festival with his teenage daughter. "It was absolutely spectacular. I have every confidence you will take these concerns and deal with them."

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