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Rock the Park organizers gearing up for festival’s return to London, Ont.

Crowds packed Harris Park for 2017 Rock the Park. (980 CFPL). (980 CFPL)

Emerging out of the COVID-19 pandemic, another popular summer festival in London, Ont., is set to “rock on” starting Wednesday.

Starting at 4 p.m., Start.ca Rock the Park will take the centre stage for the first time since 2019 with a five-day festival in Harris Park.

Read more: Rock the Park 2022 organizers hoping to add extra day after COVID-19 hiatus

Brad Jones, organizer of Rock the Park and president of Jones Entertainment Group (JEG), says “everybody is in great spirits.”

“It’s been a long two years, but we’re thrilled to be back,” Jones said.

The music kicks off Wednesday afternoon with Alanis Morissette marking the 25th anniversary of Jagged Little Pill on her first visit to London along with The Beaches, Garbage and the Crash Test Dummies.

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Shifting the music gears on Saturday, the festival is also set to debut FizzFest where crowds can buy tickets and sample beers, wines, ciders, seltzers, and premixed cocktails while still hearing live performances from artist’s such Alyssa Reid and Virgina to Vegas.

Additional lineups include:

Thursday, July 14 – The Glorious Suns, July Talk, Big Wreck, The Trews and Conor Gains.

Friday, July 15 – TLC, Aqua, Ja Rule, DMC of Run DMC, Jenny Berggren of Ace of Base, 112, and 2 LIVE CREW for the festivals retro night.

Sunday, July 17– 12-time Grammy nominee Dierks Bently, fellow Grammy nominee Ashley McBryde, The Recklaws, and Breland.

Jones estimates an average of 10,000 fans per day but says that won’t mean a crowded Harris Park.

“There’s not crazy lineups,” Jones explained. “You’re going to get food, beer, water, pop in a reasonable five [to] six minutes. We have staff that will go around and trust me, if there’s a line for more than five minutes, we’re working behind the scenes.”

A water refill station was recently added to the festival’s supply list after a 72-year-old Rock the Park volunteer quit after finding out outside water was not allowed and that bottled water was sold for $5 each.

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Read more: Rock the Park adds water refill station after councillor candidate calls out City

In a statement, Samuel Trosow called on the City to override the outside-water ban and offer a refill station.

“Rock the Park is a private entity but they’re using Harris Park, which is a city facility,” Trosow told 980 CFPL.

“Whatever the contract the city has with this vendor, separate and aside from that is the issue of the provision of free water services in a park.”

Trosow, who is an associate professor of law and media at Western University, also notes that a lack of access to water at an event like this could cause dehydration, which is a health and safety violation.

Jones, in response to Trosow’s statement, said a drinking fountain has always been provided.

“We do not allow water bottles. There will be a drinking fountain available to them inside,” Jones said. “It’s no different than the last 17 years at Rock the Park.”

He added that Rock the Park has raised more than $3.5 million “for great local charities and it comes from water sales and beer sales.”

The City of London says it’s not responsible for decisions that event organizers make regarding food and beverages, including what they offer or the pricing.

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However, city officials told 980 CFPL that organizers requested a Thirstation — a portable water station that has a bottle-filling area — for the event.

Jones also said that there is no vaccine mandate for the festival in following new government guidelines.

Read more: Ontario expands 4th COVID vaccine doses to those aged 18 to 59 amid 7th wave

“If people want to wear masks, absolutely, they’re welcome to,” Jones said, referencing the additional hand-washing stations that have been put in place in time for the event.

“We’re doing the things that we have control over to make sure people feel safe.”

Jones added that “it’s going to be such a great moment to have people back together with the same common musical tastes watching that big stage.”

Visit their website for more information about Start.ca Rock the Park.

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— with files from Global News’ Kelly Wang

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