Backlash against Boonstock music festival

Neighbours of an annual summer music festival north of Edmonton have asked the local council to move the event, which they say causes vandalism, trash and crime.

Local municipality petitioned to move popular event

The site of the annual Boonstock rock and electronic music festival gets cleaned up by an army of volunteers within days. But frustration among neighbours over trash, vandalism and crime has piled up over the past decade. They want Boonstock moved. (CBC)

An annual summer music festival north of Edmonton is hitting a sour note with locals.

Boonstock, held annually on the Canada Day weekend near Gibbons, has grown exponentially since it was founded in 2005. More than 65,000 showed up this year to camp and watch bands.

Boonstock organizer Colin Kobza, who lives on the land where the festival takes place, says he's willing to make changes to the event. (CBC)
Police have kept a close eye on the event, making 56 arrests this year and investigating numerous traffic, assault, drug and weapons complaints. Four people were arrested after large quantities of cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy were found.

But it's the trash, trespassing and vandalism that irks Ron Ebbers, who owns the property next to the Boonstock site. He said this year, garbage was thrown onto his property and one of his gates smashed by a pickup truck.

Ebbers said he grudgingly put up with similar incidents in the past. But this year, he claimed, two festival-goers broke into a home where a mother and her three children live.

"That's the part that scares me. That's the part that drove me to action, basically as a father. And wanting to protect my community," Ebbers told CBC’s Edmonton AM.

Ebbers complained about the situation at a recent meeting of Sturgeon County councillors. He has also collected a petition with 107 names, saying the county should not permit the festival to operate in its current location.

"At this point, I think they need to move."

Organizer says troublemakers the exception

Boonstock founder and organizer Colin Kobza, who lives on the land where the festival takes place, told CBC News that most festival-goers behave well and only a small percentage cause trouble.

He said the festival has tripled spending on security in the past two years, paying $75,000 this year.

"There's always changes that you can make to make the improvements of a festival," Kobza said, adding that he plans to work with his organizers and local authorities to address the problems.

Kobza also argued that the festival is good for the community, providing jobs and pumping more than $1 million since its inception into supplies from local businesses and donations to local charities.

Sturgeon County council has voted to review a bylaw that regulates all outdoor events of more than 100 people.