Pushing for Pemberton Festival 

Mayor of Pemberton launches online petition to demonstrate community support

Almost three months have passed since Pemberton saw 40,000 visitors come to town for the three-day musical extravaganza that was Pemberton Festival, and organizers are still unsure as to whether they will be able to bring the event back. But a prominent member of the local community has taken an extra step to help move the proceedings along.

The mayor of Pemberton, Jordan Sturdy, launched a petition in support of Pemberton Festival returning at www.petitiononline.com just last week, and by Monday morning, over 1,600 people had signed.

Shane Bourbonnais is president of touring and business development for Live Nation, the company that produced the massive outdoor festival at the end of July. Bourbonnais has seen the online petition, and is pleased to see the outpouring of support from the community.

“I was blown away,” he said, adding that he’s heard there are a few other physical petitions circulating throughout town. According to one signature on the petition by Lucinda Phillips, she has also put together a petition and received 112 signatures from the Mount Currie community.

Despite losing money on the event, which isn’t uncommon during a first year event of this type, Live Nation is interested in bringing the event back to Pemberton for the next 10 years.

Bourbonnais began to receive calls from some “unbelievable” artists who are interested in performing at the next Pemberton Festival before the inaugural event was even over, and the community has, by and large, strongly expressed support for the event. But before organizers can start putting together another festival for summer 2009, the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) has to make a decision about the site.

The ALC could not be reached for comment on this issue.

“Live Nation has done everything that it can do right now. Everything has been filed,” Bourbonnais said, pointing out that the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and its agricultural advisory commission have signed off on the applications already.

Sturdy, who also owns and operates North Arm Farms in Pemberton, is regularly stopped and asked by constituents if the festival will be coming back.

He said the ALC is simply doing their job by focusing on the agriculture issues and is unsure if they will even take the petition into consideration, but he wanted to give members of the local community a chance to show support.

“If you look at the ALC’s mandate, it’s two-fold: the preservation of the agricultural land base and the enhancement of agriculture. So, we’re saying that the best scenario here for the preservation of farmland is, in fact, the festival,” Sturdy said, pointing out that if the property were put on the open market, a developer would likely buy and build on it.

He said the event could also be beneficial to the agricultural community, as the local producers market at the event will be enhanced, with the goal of “maximizing consumption of local product at the festival.”

Bourbonnais said the land was actually left in far better shape than before the festival; crews reseeded, leveled ground, and replaced old fencing.

But the longer Live Nation waits for the official go-ahead, the less likely it becomes that they will be bringing the festival back.

Bourbonnais has been fielding calls from artists and suppliers who are anxious to sign contracts, but his hands are tied until they can actually confirm that they can hold the festival in Pemberton.

“A lot of the festivals are working through routings with artists right now,” Bourbonnais said, pointing out that many performers need to schedule. “…It inhibits my ability to bring together a great lineup, and the talent is critical.”

Last week, the ALC couldn’t say if the issue would be included on the agenda for their upcoming meeting in mid-November, but Sturdy is optimistic, explaining that the ALC has already requested clarifications on the documents they submitted just last week, which means they’re being looked at.

Either way, Bourbonnais said it’s “imperative” that they have an answer by November so they can begin planning for Pemberton Festival, or, worst case scenario, relocate the event. And that is an option — there have been a number of communities across Canada and U.S. who have contacted Bourbonnais to let him know that they’d be happy to play host to the event.

“We’re continually observing where we’re at as a process, because again, there’s going to be a point that it’s going to become too expensive to produce, which is going to make it too risky, which, under the economic conditions that we’re living in right now, is of concern,” Bourbonnais said.

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