August 11, 2017 6:32 pm
Updated: August 11, 2017 8:22 pm

Folk Festival volunteers say evacuation went smoothly, share unique perspective

WATCH: A sudden wind storm rocked the city Thursday night. While it caused little damage, it did prematurely end the opening night of Edmonton's Folk Festival. Fletcher Kent reports.

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Volunteers at Edmonton’s Folk Music Festival say they’re pleased with the way the site was evacuated as a storm approached Thursday night.

Barb Moore-Nason and Josh Nason share a unique perspective on the subject. The mother and son duo were at Big Valley Jamboree in 2009 when a massive storm blew through, causing the stage to collapse, killing Donna Moore, a young mother from Lloydminster, Alta.

“I was just really scared, I didn’t really know what was going on,” Nason said.

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High winds forced organizers of the Folk Festival to shut down just before 8 p.m. Thursday.

“It worked really smoothly,” Moore-Nason said. “After the evacuation call from the main stage, it was just over an hour until we had everyone offsite. It went smoothly.”

Moore-Nason helped with Thursday’s evacuation effort and said things have changed since the Big Valley disaster.

READ MORE: Edmonton Folk Festival shut down Thursday night due to ‘dangerous winds’

“It’s way better now, just having the plans in place,” she said, crediting social media as the fastest way to connect with festivalgoers.

“We have more eyes across the site. Instead of just knowing what’s going on in front of you, you can hear about and know what’s going on everywhere across the site,” Moore-Nason added.

Festival producer Terry Wickham said they were on “red alert” last night.

Wickham said organizers decided to have an onsite meteorologist shortly after the Big Valley tragedy.

A meteorologist was onsite Thursday and warned of the approaching storm.

“From any tragedy some good can come, it’s woken everybody to the fact that, ‘Hey, let’s not take things for granted.’ If you do an outdoor show it can be really tough.”

Wickham said the festival does have procedures in place when bad weather strikes and they will analyze Thursday night’s evacuation.

READ MORE: Fatality inquiry into 2009 Big Valley Jamboree death says standards needed for stages

“After last night [we’ll be] even more prepared next year,” Wickham said.

“The financial damage to the festival will be about $100,000. It’s not good, but that’s not bad- no one got hurt that’s the main thing.”

Those attending Thursday night’s concerts will have the option to receive a refund or attend Friday night’s show.

Wickham said the festival has never had to issue refunds before.

Guests who had Thursday night tickets are being invited to attend Friday’s show for free. They’re asked to go to the Bennett Centre at 9703 – 94 St. between 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday with their wristband or receipt to receive a Friday single ticket.

If people cannot make the Friday night performance, they are eligible for a refund. If tickets were purchased through Ticketmaster, people should email fansupport@ticketmaster.ca or call 1-855-985-4357.  If tickets were purchased through the festival box office, email foreverfolkfest@edmontonfolkfest.org with the purchaser’s name, daytime phone number and purchase location.

“If it’s a weekend pass, you’re missing two artists out of 66,” Wickham said. “So I think people understand that. We won’t be offering refunds there but if you bought a Thursday night alone, yes, we will be offering refunds.”

Shakey Graves and The Decemberists, who were set to perform Thursday night, will be invited back next year.

A video screen and tent were damaged, but Wickham said no injuries were reported.

Thursday was the first day of the four-day festival. The show is expected to go on as planned for the remainder of the weekend.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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