Kiss and don't tell: Size of Gene Simmons' music festival in Grand Forks is news to mayor
Rock star announced summer event on CBC Radio, which caught Mayor Brian Taylor by surprise
When Gene Simmons invited tens of thousands of people to a summer music festival in a small B.C. city on CBC radio last week, it was the first the local mayor had heard of the event.
Simmons says he expects 40,000 people to attend his new festival on the first weekend of August — and while Taylor sees the financial benefits it could bring to the southern Interior community of around 4,000 people, the proposed scale of the event is raising a few concerns.
"This was news to us," said Taylor on Radio West on Wednesday, adding he had only heard casual comments at city hall about the possibility of the festival, but nothing in terms of a formal discussion.
The festival is replacing the classic rock festival CannaFest, which has been taking place every August at the city's James Donaldson Park.
Canadian producer Chuck Varabioff, who used to put on CannaFest, is working with Simmons to plan the new event at the same site.
'We have curfews, we have expectations and bylaws'
Taylor said the park can comfortably hold about 7,000 people and around 15,000 maximum daily attendees, given that festival crowds ebb and flow and not all attendees are likely to be on the grounds at the same time.
"It's becoming too big for the site we are in," said Taylor, adding he also has some reservations about the type of crowd the event could draw.
"We haven't seen the lineup yet. One of the concerns is that it might change the demographic," said the mayor, referring to those who attended CannaFest as "quite quiet" fans of music he called "boomer rock".
Taylor said a larger, younger crowd would mean the festival may need to factor in additional medical attendants and extra policing.
During his on-air announcement, Simmons also said there would be no curfew at the festival and musical acts could take the stage at anytime.
But Taylor ruled that out.
"We have curfews, we have expectations and bylaws so I think that that is a bit of a misspeak," the mayor said.
Gene Simmons dishes about a new music festival in Grand Forks, B.C.<a href="https://t.co/Dsrdvj11yU">https://t.co/Dsrdvj11yU</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GrandForksBC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GrandForksBC</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Okanagan?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Okanagan</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Boundary?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Boundary</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Penticton?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Penticton</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Kelowna?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Kelowna</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Kootenays?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Kootenays</a> <a href="https://t.co/Yhk1WGg9j4">pic.twitter.com/Yhk1WGg9j4</a>—@CBCKelowna
'Let's work out the problems'
However, Taylor says he has no plans to be a party pooper.
"We are a free enterprise community and I don't think there are too many people would really support us clamping down on the success that this might bring," said Taylor.
In the past, Varabioff has made generous donations to local charities, and Simmons said the pair would be contributing to local charities focused on child care and supporting single mothers. The festival also plans to employ casual labour.
Taylor plans to support the event as best he can and if it comes to finding a new site in the area to accommodate the event, he will get public input before doing so.
"A lot of people are saying, let's work out the problems, let's not react and get frightened," he said.
Simmons seems stoked to be coming to town.
"The town's welcoming everybody with open arms," said Simmons. "You'll be shocked at how many cool folks are going up to Grand Forks."
According to Simmons, tickets to the festival are priced at $150 and the lineup will be announced online in the coming days. The event is scheduled for Aug. 6-8.
- A previous version of this story said CannaFest was a classic rock and cannabis festival when it was only the former. The article also said that Gene Simmons made generous donations to local charities, when in fact they were made by CannaFest organizer Chuck Varabioff.Jan 22, 2020 6:23 PM PT
With files from Radio West