Pemberton Festival a success 

Organizers say operational glitches can be ironed out

click to enlarge Fest Fans About 40,000 people came out to the past weekend's inaugural Pemberton Festival. Photo by Holly Fraughton
  • Fest Fans About 40,000 people came out to the past weekend's inaugural Pemberton Festival. Photo by Holly Fraughton

Circle July 24, 25 and 26 on your calendar — that’s when organizers are hoping to hold Pemberton Festival 2009.

The dust has barely settled on the site of last weekend’s festival, and already the buzz is building over which big names will perform next year.

But the first-year festival wasn’t without its logistical issues — getting to the site was a nightmare for many, with some even spending Thursday night at the airport parking area.

In an interview Tuesday Shane Bourbonnais, president of North American touring and business development for Live Nation, the company responsible for the inaugural event and 30 similar festivals worldwide, said there were many lessons learned at the first-year festival. Live Nation will be busy trying to figure out ways to combat problems with dust, garbage and transportation for future Pemberton Festivals.

“(It’s a) huge learning experience, and you never know how things are going to react until it happens, right?”

He said the transportation plan in place was more than adequate, but there were some issues with subcontractors executing it properly.

“You can pull together the best plan possible, but… if it’s not executed, it’s worthless,” Bourbonnais added.

At a press conference held Friday, Bourbonnais announced that they were just 100 tickets shy of reaching maximum capacity for the site — 40,000 people — adding that the response to the festival was “beyond our expectations.”

Bourbonnais said they were ready for the crowds, adding that they had half of the RVs loaded in within an hour and a half. They had surveyed camping ticket buyers and 48 per cent had said they planned to be early birds, arriving on Thursday rather than the first day of the festival, Friday.

But too many arrived late in the day Thursday, which caused some serious “operational hiccups” and led to people being bussed to the site as late as 2 a.m. Friday. To help shorten wait times for shuttles, they increased the number of busses from 30 to 50 on Friday. Unfortunately, the problem didn’t seem to be totally resolved by Sunday evening, when many festival goers made a rush for their cars and still ended up stuck in traffic for hours.

Traffic between Pemberton and Whistler was also an issue at times each day, as some people commuted from hotel rooms in Whistler to the festival site.

Whether they were waiting in traffic, or in long lineups at Port-A-Potties, showers, concessions or the Bacardi B-Live Tent, visitors to the first Pemberton Festival learned the importance of patience. Despite the lineups, most people seemed to feel that three days of stellar performances from artists like Jay Z, Tom Petty, N.E.R.D., Coldplay and many more were well worth the wait.


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