FozzyFest, the little festival that could, as it is sometimes affectionately referred to due to their perseverance in the face of numerous hurdles, has overcome another step in their journey after having their special event licence (SEL) approved in a Thursday, November 2 RDEK meeting in a narrow eight to seven vote.
FozzyFest has been held since 2013 on the shores of Lake Koocanusa.
In 2016 their application for a SEL was declined, as the RCMP, after putting together their risk assessment, recommended to the board of directors of RDEK for FozzyFest not to be held. This led the organizers of the festival to push RDEK to amend the bylaw, and that year they were only able to have a 500 person event, down from the 1,500 attendees they usually host.
The bylaw was amended, meaning that going forward, the RDEK did not need the RCMP to sign off on the permit, they could approve it on their own.
This past summer the RDEK approved the SEL, but then the festival was forced to relocate to Metis Crossing north of Edmonton at the last minute due to the raging forest fires in the area.
Now that they have been approved, organizer Shawn Lafleur says they are moving full steam ahead with 2018. He said that while they had a fantastic festival in the temporary new home, they very much look forward to returning to Big Springs Campground on Lake Koocanusa.
“You can’t beat that beach,” he said. “The aesthetics of that beach are pretty special so we are excited to plan there.”
Electoral Area B Director Stan Doehle was one of the opponents of the SEL’s approval. As in previous years, his greatest concern is that there is only one access road into the festival site.
“There’s just one road down in there,” Doehle said. “It’s like you’re sitting in a fish bowl and that’s going back when the RCMP did the risk assessment on that. That was first and foremost down into there is the access for emergency services or any incidents that happens down there.”
Doehle, who has 22 years in emergency services, working for Elkford, Fernie and Baines Lake Fire Service, said that he knows what can happen in a situation like that, if an extreme circumstance were to arise, such as a sudden forest fire.
“And that’s been identified and brought up time and time again and nothing’s actually changed there so I’m still not in favour of it because of that,” he added.
The main issues with the approval process include the access road, noise concerns and drug use.
“We’ve written our rebuttals to those stances with our response to the risk assessment and every year we improve our services,” said Lafleur.
“Year after year we continue to improve our policies and procedures and next year’s going to be our fourteenth year and hopefully we’re doing things the right way and trying to keep people safe,” added Lafleur. “That’s our number one goal too, people to have a good time but we want to make sure they go home safe.”
In an effort to increase the safety of their guests, in 2017’s festival FozzyFest brought in a full medical contractor called Elite Emergency Response, and Lafleur said they are planning to use their around-the-clock, full medical services again in 2018.
“I think that’s responsible on their part and hats off to them for doing it,” said Doehle, but added that that doesn’t address his concern about the access road.
“My wish is that everybody comes out of there with safety first and foremost with everybody, and [the festival goers] respect the surrounding area there,” he said about next year’s event.