Nova Scotia

Evolve music festival must abide by new rules, including more security

The municipality of the County of Antigonish has strict new rules for this year's Evolve music festival and the event will now have a doctor on-site, around the clock, and more searches of attendees at the gates.

Muncipal council must approve a medical plan

The Evolve Festival in Antigonish, N.S., has been attracting local and international performers to the area since 2000. (Chris Smith/Evolve Festival/Flickr)

The municipality of the County of Antigonish has strict new rules for this year's Evolve music festival. The event will now have a doctor on-site, around the clock, and more searches of attendees at the gates. 

The changes come following last year's festival when a 21-year-old man died after he collapsed at the concert site. An autopsy said his death was due to natural causes.

One of the new conditions Evolve organizer Jonas Colter has to meet is to come up with a medical plan, developed by a doctor who is licenced in Nova Scotia, and have it approved by the elected members of the municipality.

"Just having a doctor on-site 24 hours a day is going to be beneficial to Evolve and Evolve's attendees," Colter said.

In the past, he says the festival had three paramedics on-site and they made the call about whether an attendee needed emergency care at a hospital.

This year that decision must be made by a doctor.

Colter says Dr. Brendan Munn is working on the medical plan. Munn was one of several physicians who helped draft a report for the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse last summer titled "Preventing Drug and Alcohol-related Harms at Music Festivals in Canada."

Extra security may not reduce drugs

The municipality is also asking Colter to make an extra effort to keep drugs out. This year, anyone with a concert ticket will be searched by security when they arrive. If they leave, they'll have to be searched again.

It's an added step Colter says will do little to keep drugs out.

"If people want to get drugs in there, there's nothing that's going to stop them," he says.

"We can do it to appease the bureaucracy but if they can't keep drugs out of maximum security jails, then we definitely can't keep them out of Evolve."

Evolve organizer Jonas Colter says he'll be presenting the municipality with a medical plan for the festival on April 20. (CBC)

The festival will have more down time this year too.

Last year, the music never stopped. The main stages would go silent during certain blocks of time, but smaller stages and tents had music playing around the clock all weekend.

This year, Glenn Horne, municipal treasurer, says there will be three-hour blocks overnight where the grounds will go silent.

"During the festival you have a situation where the festival goers could have become more fatigued than they would have been if they had breaks and the festival ended on a certain hour."

Evolve had considered Summerside

The festival this year will end at 1 a.m. Monday morning.  Last year it ended at 6 a.m.

Horne says that was too late.

"So the thought is we would create an environment where people may be slightly more rested to leave the festival on Sunday then they would be otherwise," he said.

Colter says so far, all conditions have been agreed to but he still has to present the medical plan to the municipality April 20. 

The plan had been to present it at the beginning of February, but Horne said the two sides are still in negotiations.

Colter says Summerside, P.E.I., was courting the festival, offering some indoor venues and other services in kind. But the city pulled its offer on Monday, Colter says.

Evolve is scheduled to begin on July 8 and run until July 10. No lineup has been announced yet.


Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.


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