New Brunswick

Minto residents skeptical about relocated 'Future Forest' music festival

Future Forest, an outdoor music and arts festival, has found a new home outside of Minto this year, but the locals aren't ready to welcome it with opens arms just yet.

Locals say they weren't informed about the festival, which will host up to 1,200 people, until last week

Future Forest Festival was created as a benefit for the festival director's friend in 2012, who was diagnosed with cancer. (Tim Kukula)

Future Forest, an outdoor music and arts festival, has found a new home outside of Minto this year, but the locals aren't ready to welcome it with opens arms just yet.

Vaughana Atyeo has lived in the area her entire life. She's one of many who claim to have known nothing about the event until at least last week, and concerns are brewing.

"Why all of a sudden, like, 'Bam, here ya go,' there's a concert for [tons of] people out the middle of the woods?" she said.

"Nobody knew anything about it."

The electronic music festival started in 2012 as a benefit concert for a friend of Tim Kukula, the event's director.

Kukula's friend, a DJ, was diagnosed with cancer and the concert drew nearly 100 people.

Following its success, the organizers decided to turn the event into an annual festival at its previous location at Wark's Point on the Mactaquac headpond near Fredericton in 2013.

Future Forest doesn't just focus on music, but also arts, geared towards sustainability and nature. (Kristan Kenney)

Now, after a battle over noise complaints and a desire to implement new infrastructure, Future Forest will settle into its new, 200-acre home in Albright's Corner, near Minto and Grand Lake.

'Totally bizarre'

The new location is on the 18 Rd., a dirt road off Route 10, about 30 minutes from Fredericton. The road runs through a large forest, home to many hunting camps owned by local families.

Tickets have been on sale since February and over 700 have sold. But most locals said they only found out about the event on Facebook in the last couple of weeks.

"It is kinda weird. I'm totally all for that stuff because why not? It's just the fact that none of the campers knew about it, I guess," Atyeo said.

"When you get strangers coming in and it's something that we're not used to, it puts your guard up pretty quick."

The festival team has been working on the site out the 18 Rd. near Minto since February. Seen here is a trailer bed and a bag of colourful decorations. (Sarah Betts/CBC)

Pam Lynch, Progressive Conservative MLA for Fredericton-Grand Lake, first heard about the event on July 12.

A representative from the local service district called asking her if there was any opposition to the event, she said.

"Frankly, I didn't know what he was talking about because I hadn't heard anything about this at all," Lynch said.

"We called back again on Friday and were told that if there was any opposition to it, it should be sent to us right away,

Why all of a sudden, like, 'Bam, here ya go,' there's a concert for [tons of] people out the middle of the woods?- Vaughana Atyeo, local resident

"The local service district needed it because the permit [to hold the event] was going to be issued right away."

Lynch said she encouraged the locals to send her any concerns.

Though there was a lot of talk, she only received one official complaint via social media.

Though issuing permits is not in her jurisdiction, Lynch is concerned about the way the event has unfolded.

"I don't know what the secrecy has been because I find it totally bizarre," she said.

"Usually you hear about things like this, because my understanding is it's going to be a big deal and there's about 1,200 people attending and that's huge."

Keeping the peace

Tim Kukula, Forest Future's director, said he did meet with some people who owned camps near the new festival site before purchasing the land.

"That was my initial concern, to make sure that the area was receptive and wanted this to happen," he said on Tuesday.

Kukula said the response from those he's spoken with has been positive.

The festival focuses on electronic music, but Kukula said there is "something for everybody." (Tim Kukula)

He's aware of concerns other locals have put forth, but said all plans are in place to ensure a safe, non-disruptive event.

Future Forest also had briefings with several government departments and community groups, including the local fire department and the RCMP, Ambulance New Brunswick, and both the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure and the Department of Natural Resources.

"Essentially, [they had] initial concerns, but then we extended our plans to them and everybody we've talked to … has been really impressed with the project," Kukula said.

There will be signs directing traffic to the site, with "do not enter" signs marking private properties. An entrance and exit to the site will be designated with security at each spot, containing festival goers from the rest of the forest.

"Because the area is so vast, I don't see any issues of people wandering off to one of the cabins in the area," Kukula said, adding they've never had similar problems in the past.

Regardless, he said security will keep a close eye on wanderers.

There will also be "intense vehicle checks" to avoid problems relating to fentanyl and other dangerous substances.

"We really want this event to be as safe as possible."

Time will tell

But questions may remain unanswered until the event actually happens, Atyeo said.

"We don't know these people. Here they are coming in from anywhere, to our quaint little piece of paradise out in the woods where people go and thrive on the weekends just to even have peace and quiet," she said.

"Maybe they're going to venture, maybe not. Maybe it's going to be good, maybe not."

Director Tim Kukula ensured safety plans are in place to keep festival-goers and local property safe. (Tim Kukula)

She said she has mixed feelings about the unfamiliar event coming to her hometown area, saying it puts people on edge.

"Go live it up, have some fun, meet some new people, and enjoy it. But at the same time, don't drop the ball on the community, for people to not know about it."

This year, the event has upped its capacity from 800 to 1,200, but no more.

"By doing it this way, it allows us to be really diligent with our resources," Kukula said.

We really want this event to be as safe as possible.- Tim Kukula, festival director

A well has been drilled for water and Kukula has cell-boosters so there is a bit of phone service. Generators will run during the festival, which takes place July 28 to 31.

Many tickets have been sold in Quebec and Nova Scotia and they are expecting a sell-out. Economic spin-offs from previous years add up to approximately $1-million, he said.

But Kukula encouraged locals to come out and see what the festival is for themselves, so long as they are over the age of 18.

"There's a lot of different art, so even if it's not the music you're interested in, there's a little something for everybody here."

About the Author

Sarah Betts

Reporter

Sarah Betts is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She is also a journalism student at St. Thomas University.