The RDEK denied a special license for a music festival in the South Country after the board of directors debated the proposed expansion of it going from 500 people to potentially 2,000.
The application was postponed from May after initially being brought forward in February from Shawn Lafleur and Darryl Stanat, the two organizers who are from Calgary.
Stan Doehle, the Area B director whose electoral area includes the proposed site on Lake Koocanusa, led opposition to the event and read out a letter describing his concerns.
“FozzyFest has outgrown the site,” said Doehle. “1,500 to 2,000 are way too many people for this area.Perhaps they need to move closer to a larger centre. The RCMP have identified the issues in their risk assessment report of having the FozzyFest at Big Springs.
“A risk assessment was done this time and it talked about being in a remote location being a major problem and also drug seizures from people attending,” Doehle said. “The risk assessment covers all the issues that we should respect the RCMP for the knowledge and expertise they have. At present, I have not received one call or letter in support of FozzyFest.”
Clara Reinhardt, the mayor of Radium Hot Springs, voiced her concerns over the lack of consultation with the Tobacco Plains Indian Band, which would receive revenue for the event, as well as the direction the board was taking over the course of the discussion.
“For this year, I feel pretty strongly that we should be letting it go, watching it. Everyone’s aware, the RCMP say they’re confiscating drugs—awesome,” Reinhardt said. “Stand at the gate, make sure you catch it all. But you know what, the RCMP confiscate drugs in every one of our communities. It’s out there.”
Don McCormick, the mayor of Kimberley, was concerned that even if the RDEK denied the special license, 2,000 could just show up anyways and that RCMP resources would be stretched thin when they had only planned for 500 people.
“Only we don’t have the RCMP there for 2,000 people,” McCormick said. “We have them there for 500. We don’t have the garbage collection, we don’t have all the other services there to make this work. I think the situation we’re getting into with that, is going to be far worse than anything we have to deal with or the proponents have to deal with in managing the event.
“The way I see it, the only way this is going to come to a conclusion that says there’s no risk associated, is to ban the event, and the last time I looked, we were not banning people from coming into the East Kootenay. That would be a huge mistake.”
Director Tom Shypitka, a Cranbrook city councillor and a municipal board director, noted that whether 500 people or 2,000, people will be coming.
“This party’s gonna happen no matter what,” Shypitka said. “I don’t think that’s going to be a surprise to anybody.”
Gerry Taft, the mayor of Invermere, said the organizers have followed the rules and worked with the RDEK every step along the way of getting permission to hold the festival, which is going to happen regardless of how the board votes.
“Here, we have a final decision,” Taft said. “They either have permission to have a 500-person party. They’re asking for permission to make that a little bit bigger. We’re basically going to decide if we’re going to push them into being rule-breakers or rule-followers.”
FozzyFest was born out of a birthday party in 2005 and has moved locations a few times, including a spot on a riverbank in South Kananaskis. Now, after three years of being held at Lake Koocanusa, the 2016 iteration of the event, from Sept. 15-18, will include three stages with live acts performing all weekend .