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Wildfires force FozzyFest music festival to relocate to Alberta

Paul Rodgers

Paul Rodgers

For the second time in their 13-year history, FozzyFest music festival, which runs from September 14 to 17, has been forced to relocate due to natural disaster. The wildfires burning around Lake Koocanusa, where the event is held, have spurred evacuation alerts on their side of the lake, and evacuation orders for the opposite. Rather than cancel the event, they have decided to move to Metis Crossing on the North Saskatchewan River, northeast of Edmonton.

“It’s a very serious situation and I feel for everybody out there, it’s gotta be really intense,” said festival director Darryl Stanat. “But we’re trying to be resilient and move forward and not cancel our event to, I don’t know, live up to our reputation a little bit seeing that we’ve done this before, believe it or not.”

In 2013 the organizers were faced with a strikingly similar unfortunate scenario and resulting challenging decision, two weeks before showtime. The disastrous Alberta floods that summer forced them to relocate from their original home in southern Kananaskis to Big Springs Campground on Koocanusa.

“It is what it is,” said Stanat, resolutely positive. “You can’t make this stuff up.” He also definitely saw the irony in the “unlucky 13” scenario; in that they had to move initially in 2013 and now in their 13th year they have to move again.

Last year, they again faced significant challenges, this time pertaining to a licensing dispute with the RCMP that resulted in them having a cap of 500 people allowed to attend the event, as opposed to the approximately 1500 they had grown to expect. This year they were back to full size, making this development all the more disappointing.

After being made aware of the evacuation alert, the organizers closely studied the upcoming forecast, which shows no upcoming percipitation and did nothing to alleviate their concerns.

“We’re not confident that it’s going to rain,” Stanat said. “The forecast doesn’t look good and we’re not confident even if it does that they’re going to open up the Crown land even if they release the evacuation alert. And then we’re still impacted by that in that our site is accessed through crown land so they wouldn’t allow us to do that if that was still in place.”

They then made the call not to have their event there and assessed nearly a dozen alternative location options. They even went back to their first site in Kananaskis, Stanat having not been there since before the flood. The next day the announcement was made that Crown land in that area was closed, so that idea was caput.

This new location, providing next year’s summer doesn’t bring more natural disasters, will only be a temporary home, and was chosen because they have hosted several other festivals this season and were open and accomodating to FozzyFest’s plight. Organizers were shut down immediately by numerous other venues due to the short notice of their request, as festivals generally take months to plan; getting permits and noise bylaws in place as just one example.

Stanat said that while they will have to retool some logistical aspects of the festival — infrastructure, stage builds that have equipment stored at Big Springs and making sure artists and vendors can still make the drive — their spirits remain high and they are excited to explore the new location and see what they can do there, and they hope attendees feel the same. However Stanat was admittedly not as keen on this location as he was the “diamond in the rough” that they found in Big Springs as a venue. By October they will already be applying for permits to return to their home on the beaches of Koocanusa.