Nova Scotia

Evolve leaving Antigonish is bad for business, says Robotnik CEO

The head of an Antigonish IT company says festival organizers and the municipality share responsibility for Evolve leaving town — and business owners are the ones who will suffer.

Head of IT company says he stands to lose between $5K and $10K this summer

Shawn Wilkie says festival organizers and municipal leaders share responsibility for the loss, and local business owners in Antigonish are the ones who will suffer. (Chris Smith/Evolve)

A business owner in Antigonish says he's "deeply disappointed" that Evolve Festival organizers and municipal administrators could not find a way to work together to keep the music festival in Antigonish.

Jonas Colter, executive director of the Evolve Festival, confirmed Monday the festival is relocating to a 200-hectare farm in New Brunswick between Clairville and Beersville, about a half hour north of Moncton.

The Municipality of the County of Antigonish revoked the festival's special event licence after organizers failed to submit a medical plan on time.

Shawn Wilkie's information technology company, Robotnik, typically provides computer services on the Evolve festival grounds. He said he stands to lose between $5,000 and $10,000 now that the festival is moving.

"From my point of view, as a business person, the biggest disappointment for me is not anything to do with the festival," Wilkie said, "but all to do with the economic impact of the town and county and the province."

No plan to replace monetary losses

Wilkie said he's talked to municipal officials about his concerns, and nobody seems to have a plan in place for replacing losses for those local firms who have grown accustomed to doing business with the Evolve Festival.

"I don't think the local levels of government have any other plan to replace [lost income]," he said. "You know if it was $1 million economic impact every year, that's $10 million over 10 years."

Wilkie said he wishes there had been a way for festival organizers and municipal leaders to meet in the middle.

"It seems silly that a resolution couldn't have been had and I think that there was probably some frustration on both sides but it's an awful big impact to just make a decision to throw it away," he said.

Business owners are the biggest 'losers'

Wilkie said both parties share responsibility for the loss — and the business owners are the ones who will suffer.

"I think Jonas will relocate the festival and be as successful, if not more successful," he said.

"I think the people at the County of Antigonish that work there and the councillors will go about their business the way they did before and after this event. I think the big losers here are the business community."

Neighbour to new New Brunswick site 'thrilled'

New Brunswick teacher Katherine Halas Moulton lives about 15 minutes away from the new Evolve Festival site. She and her husband have attended the festival in the past — her husband also volunteered one year doing first aid — and she said she's "absolutely thrilled" with the new location.

"I do think it's fabulous for promoting our community and just increasing tourism to our area and having people know what a beautiful, amazing place it is here in Kent County," she said.

It'll be an adjustment for the community, Halas Moulton said, but it could mean a boost for the local economy.

Managing the festival

"It really depends on how they manage the festival," she said.

"Are they going to mostly just promote Moncton? Are they mostly just going to bring their own vendors and their own products and their own musicians or are they going to make an effort to include this community?"

As a volunteer firefighter, Halas Moulton said all it takes is good planning to make sure the festival grounds are safe.

"There are people that are going to be partying. I'm sure that's going to happen. But it's a matter of keeping it under control and setting a tone, too, that's safe and protected."