by EVAN MATTHEWS
Organizers of the Robson Valley’s most popular music festival say parties are tarnishing the event’s reputation, something organizers aren’t willing to play with.
Robson Valley Music Festival Director and Coordinator Rob Mercereau says the festival aims to be a family friendly, safe environment, but the number of intoxicated individuals at the event has increased over the past few years.
“We’ve got ears out in the community, and we’re hearing things about how we’re being perceived in a negative way,” says Mercereau, adding people come to the valley from all over to take in the event.
“People can sometimes get out of control… There is a growing tendency for families to feel as though the party element at the festival is the defining factor,” he says.
This year’s festival will see an outside contractor running security, according to Mercereau, as he says RCMP advised organizers that a third party would be their best option. Bag checks and pat downs will not be out of the question, he says.
“People are going to do what people are going to do. We don’t condone drug and alcohol use, or any other illegal activity. If you do it anyway, keep it low key and make it so you’re not encroaching on other people’s ability to enjoy the shows,” — Rob Mercereau, Robson Valley Music Fest director
Over the last couple of years, Mercereau says police reports pertaining to the festival have made mention of alleged drug overdoses or violent encounters, which isn’t something festival organizers want to be associated with.
“We’ve had those instances happen, for sure. There is no denying these types of activities do take place at music festivals… But we don’t feel like we should be defined by that with so much more going on,” says Mercereau, noting the giant children’s play area on the festival grounds.
“(Drugs and alcohol) do not reflect the values we’d like to see exemplified by our festival,” he says.
Whether a person is using a “hippy drug,” a “rave drug” or even alcohol, Mercereau says it’s the consistent intoxication of festival patrons to stick in other people’s minds versus good music, good food and good times.
If organizers don’t address the issue, Mercereau says they’re essentially saying partying behaviour is acceptable.
“People are going to do what people are going to do,” says Mercereau.
“We don’t condone drug and alcohol use, or any other illegal activity… Don’t do it. If you do it anyway, keep it low key and make it so you’re not encroaching on other people’s ability to enjoy the shows,” he says.
While organizers are currently placing emphasis on the festival’s party aspect, Mercereau says, really, the festival is simply trying to create a space of mutual respect.
“We want to see people take responsibility for what they’re doing and how they’re doing it in all respects,” says Mercereau, adding the festival will be adding a “zero waste policy” in addition to the festival’s Green Team.
Patrons have been producing a lot of garbage, according to Mercereau, and while acknowledging zero waste is an unlikely goal, it’s a great mark to strive for.
“We may not achieve it, but we want to have targets to hit,” he says.
This year’s headliners will see The Moulettes, Sweet Alibi, The Honey Tongues, and the Athabasca Barn Burners, among many others.
Local acts include Samson’s Delilah, Blue Syntax, Crescent Spur, 5 Sheets to the Wind, Nathan Smith, and Nick Beddington.