The curtain will not be going up on a four-day electronic music festival which organizers hoped could take place this month at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte Township as an last-minute replacement.
Organizers hoped the Ever After Music Festival — focused on electronic dance music and including “fully immersive” camping experiences — could be held at Burl’s Creek, located on Highway 11 between Barrie and Orillia, from Thursday, Aug. 11 to Sunday, Aug. 14.
However, with less than two weeks until the event was scheduled to take place, organizers failed to receive township approval for the necessary special-events permit after councillors voted it down, citing concerns around the festival's operational planning.
Organizers were looking for a new venue location after it outgrew Bingemans in Kitchener. They had hoped to move it to Burl's Creek in Oro-Medonte.
Brianna Cloud, 18, who bought tickets for the festival back in March, told BarrieToday she has reached out organizers multiple times via direct message on Instagram, but all of her messages remain unread.
"A lot of people I know who bought tickets are saying the same. I also still haven’t received my wristbands or anything and to me, it sort of seems like they never planned on sending them," said Cloud, who had planned on travelling nearly 300 kilometres from her home in Lambton Shores to Oro-Medonte for the festival.
"This festival has been cancelled for years and it’s all sort of sketchy the way everything is being handled," she added.
Festival organizers have not responded to emails from BarrieToday.
A staff report presented to township council on July 6 noted event organizers anticipated the festival would include approximately 15,000 people per day.
However, Shawn Binns, the township’s director of operations and community services, noted promoters indicated that attendance remained uncertain as there were 10,000 tickets from the 2020 event, which was cancelled due to the pandemic, that had carried forward to the 2022 event.
At its July 21 meeting, Oro-Medonte council officially voted to deny the special-events permit on the advice from Binns.
To obtain a special-events permit from the townshis, organizers are required to develop operational plans outlining matters such as site layout, emergency management, food and beverage, traffic management, building and structural plans, fire safety, security, waste management, and community impact.
As of Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 2), the event website was still selling tickets, which ranged from $135 for a day pass to $345 for a three-day VIP experience.
Event organizers took to Twitter on July 27, where they noted they were aware of the township's denial of the special-events permit, adding there is an “appeals process that they are currently undergoing as well as reviewing other options to ensure that (Ever After Music Festival) occurs in 2022.”
“As of now, festival planning is proceeding as planned and we will update all Adventurers as we have more information," organizers said in a tweet.
According to Township of Oro-Medonte spokesperson Jenny Legget, no such appeal process exists. She also says discussions were ongoing and the organizers were well aware of the townhip's issues.
“Over the past several months, township staff and agency partners... have been communicating with representatives from the festival for the purpose of providing logistical assistance to facilitate development of an acceptable festival operational plan required for the issuance of a special-event permit,” Legget said in an email to BarrieToday.
Those "agency partners" include Ontario Provincial Police, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), County of Simcoe Paramedic Services and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, as well as municipal law enforcement and local fire officials. All expressed concern about the lack of planning by event organizers and did not support the event being held in the township.
A July 20 letter written by Binns also noted that over the past several months, township staff have been communicating with the festival promoter and attempting to facilitate the special-event operational planning which is required to issue the permit, but ultimately were not satisfied with the information they’d received.
“As it currently stands, the state of the Ever After Music Festival operational planning has not addressed the concerns and requirements for appropriate security, building/structure, traffic management, fire safety, community impact, food and beverage and medical and emergency plans," Binns noted in his letter, while also noting time constraints and the "significant concern shared by all partner agencies and stakeholders on the current state of the promoter’s planning and organization."
The township’s special-event bylaw weighs the economic and tourism benefits of such events with the potential negative impacts and risks to ensure they're appropriately managed, Binns said.
“Given the current state of the Ever After Music Festival operational planning and time limitations prior to the event, township department and agency stakeholders are not in a position to recommend the issuance of a special event permit at this time," he said.
The operational plan, which Binns noted was received July 15, lacked the necessary detail on the implementation of the traffic management plan including parking, police/parking resourcing for traffic management, pedestrian traffic management and the issuance of the requisite Ministry of Transportation (MTO) encroachment permit.
This isn’t the first time a large-scale music festival planned for the area has experienced uncertainty at the 11th hour. In 2019, a four-day concert in the Edenvale area — boasting the likes of Aerosmith, Kid Rock, Nickelback, and Lynyrd Skynyrd — was abruptly called off less than two weeks prior to the event.