September 5, 2013 6:54 pm

Fate of Boonstock music festival up in the air

EDMONTON – Alberta’s biggest rock and electronic music festival may have played its last note – at least that’s what some living in the Gibbons area are hoping. And a recent County Council vote suggests the residents may have some political support.

Ron Ebbers lives right next to the land used by Boonstock – which just finished its ninth year – and says it feels like he’s “under siege” during the four-day festival.

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“It’s way too loud – my windows vibrate, it starts at 9:30 at night, goes ’til 3 or 4 in the morning…and I’ve tried earplugs, but the sound vibrates right through the earplugs.”

“If it’s windy, garbage blows over,” he adds. “I’ve seen condoms, I’ve seen excrement, so from people coming on my property.”

This past July long weekend, Ebbers says he also had somebody smash through his gate with a stolen pick-up truck. The last straw for him, though, was when two people broke into his neighbour’s house. That prompted him to start a petition which, so far, has garnered 107 signatures.

“I don’t really care if 99 per cent of the people over there are good people, it attracts that one per cent and I believe it’s Boonstock’s responsibility to take care of all their guests.”

He took his concerns to County Council, and last week, it voted to review its rules governing large gatherings, meaning the County may not allow Boonstock to return.

“It was kind of news to me, I was a little..caught off guard about what was transpiring,” admits organizer Colin Kobza.

“It’s a little unfortunate that Mr. Ebbers feels Boonstock is out of control. When you’re dealing with 35,000 people coming to a region, you are going to have some spinoff. And I found Boonstock’s spinoff minimal.”

He says that with the amped up security, this year was described as one of the safest.

RCMP say that the four-day festival definitely kept them busy, especially because of the traffic back-ups.

“It’s a huge challenge, as the event gets larger, it requires more manpower on our part. And to be able to pull manpower from other areas, on the July long weekend, is incredibly difficult,” says Sgt. Mark Mathias of the Morinville RCMP.

Some of the other problems officers had to deal with this year included an alleged drug transaction that resulted in the seizure of a loaded handgun, bear-spray, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and ecstasy.

It was one of 45 drug seizures over the course of the weekend. There were also 11 traffic complaints, three impaired driving complaints, two reports of hit and runs and sexual assaults, 11 assaults, and four theft complaints.

It will now be up to County Council to decide Boonstock’s fate. If the festival is allowed to return, Sgt. Mathias believes the dialogue leading up to it needs to improve.

“There needs to be better cooperation between the organizer and the agencies that are going to the event.”

No County councillors were available to speak on the issue on Thursday. The event’s organizer will make a presentation to County Council later this month.

With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News

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