Koocanusa hosts flooded out FozzyFest

Organizers make lemonade out of lemons by moving festival from flooded Kananaskis to Grasmere, three days before it started.

Koocanusa played host to a 1,000-person strong music festival on the Canada Day long weekend.

FozzyFest, a three-day-long electronic music festival, was held at Big Springs campground at Tobacco Plains Indian Band from June 28 to July 1.

It was a last-minute scramble to host the event at Koocanusa. In its ninth year, FozzyFest — named with the nickname of one of the key organizers, Shawn Lafleur — has always been held beside a river on Crown land in Kananaskis country, Alberta.

But everything fell apart for organizers one week before the event when flooding hit southeast B.C. and southern Alberta.

“We thought it wouldn’t be a big deal, that the roads would open up. The river might move a little bit, but we thought everything would be fine,” said managing director Darryl Stanat.

But five days before the event was set to begin, they realized there was no way they could reach the location.

“It became apparent after trying to get down there several times from all different angles that the whole area was shut down. Every road in there was washed out – literally, gone. It was just a big gap in the road.

“Five days before the event we came to the realization that we were either going to have to move the event or cancel it,” said Stanat.

So organizers drafted emails to suppliers, talent, and vendors, ready to cancel the event. They planned to pull the switch at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, June 25.

In the meantime, Stanat and another organizer began a mad scramble to find a new location in time.

“We had Monday and Tuesday to drive all around to try to find a new venue. We drove to five different venues, from Saskatchewan to Sundre to Cochrane to this final location on Koocanusa. We found it at about 3 p.m. on the Tuesday, an hour before we were going to cancel the event,” said Stanat.

They met with Tobacco Plains’ Debra Kotaluk, and in the space of one hour, they managed to work together and find a way for the event to be hosted at Big Springs.

“They had already rented out some of the campground to other campers, and they have some permanent campers who live at the site,” said Stanat.

“Debra was super helpful in reorganizing those campers and getting contacts for us in all those services that we had to adjust – drinking water, port-a-potties, power generators.”

Stanat said that with the help of friend Dano Cutts, whose family live in Baynes Lake, they managed to source suppliers from around the East Kootenay to fill in at the last minute.

“We made a concerted effort to find services locally, and we were able to do that in two days, which is remarkable,” said Stanat.

And so the festival went on. Three stages were set up in the campsite – one on the beach and two among the trees.

“Everybody was pleased that we were able to find a venue and still put on the event. When they saw the new venue, they fell in love,” said Stanat.

“It’s an amazing venue. There are lots of shady areas here. It’s a beautiful campground with a beautiful beach and lake.”

After receiving noise complaints on the first night, organizers even agreed to reduce the capacity of its sound system by 50 per cent after midnight.

RCMP visited the site and were satisfied that organizers had appropriate first aid and security measures in place.

Now, FozzyFest may be held at Koocanusa regularly, Stanat said.

“We still have a lot of negotiating to do and talking to all the different people that would be involved. But we are hopeful that we will be able to do it in the same venue again because it went off spectacularly.”