Salmon Fest planners need to shape up or ship out

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I am writing you to express my concerns over the conditons at the 2013 Salmon Fest held in Grand Falls-Windsor July 13. While I am the one writing this letter, I am pointing out concerns voiced by many that I spoke to at the event and since.

I am copying this letter to Kevin O'Brien, who is our minister of Fire and Emergency Services in the province, in the hopes that future events at Centennial Park in Grand Falls-Windsor be closely monitored and inspected to ensure public safety. My own experience was confined to the VIP section of the concert so I will comment on that area.

Back in April one of my friends lined up in the wee hours of the morning to purchase VIP tickets for Salmon Fest as we were told the tickets would be limited to 2,500 and we wanted to secure the best available tickets that we could to ensure an optimal concert experience.

I can assure you that numbers inside the VIP section greatly exceeded 2,500 people. The number of 6,000 has been talked about and having been one of those in the totally over-crowded area, I would not be surprised.

Whether the additional people were given tickets as a promotion from the organizers or whether they jumped the fence into the section or whether they used someone else's stubs once those people had already gained admittance, I don't know, but the congestion in that area was frightening. In my opinion, there is no way that a fire marshall signed off on that number in such a confined space. People were smoking throughout the whole section and I didn't see any security personnel apart from right in front of the stage.

Concert organizers also allowed patrons to bring chairs into the concert which were set up haphazardly all over the section. While I agree that people should be able to sit during the concert, I think that controlled seating areas should be provided. Many people abandoned their chairs during the performance and these chairs then became obstacles for those on the concert grounds. Add to this the vast amount of litter throughout the grounds and you had a hazardous trek to leave the concert once it was over and in fact to stand during the concert.

The layout of the VIP area itself should be re-evaluated, as there was a serious bottleneck to get to and from the food and drink concessions and toilet area to the stage-viewing area. The Internet is full of comments regarding the complete lack of water for the event and the horrific lineups to get food and drinks, so I need not elaborate on that other than to say that these issues must also be addressed. With temperatures reaching 30 degrees, people must have timely access to water if nothing else.

My foremost concern was with security and safety at the concert.

With so many people crowded into such a confined area, we were very uneasy. If an emergency had occurred on the grounds, there would have been no way to get emergency help in or to safely get all those people out. Exits became very congested when people were leaving the concert as it was. I can only imagine what they would have been like if an emergency such as a fire required quick evacuation.

The Town of Grand Falls-Windsor and, in fact, the province have been promoting the Salmon Fest to encourage visitors to our province. Every year the event gets a little bigger and attracts bigger entertainment.

The current venue cannot accomodate these growing numbers. The venue has to be evaluated for capacity and strict control must be enforced in order to protect the people who attend this event in the future.

Once capacity for VIP and general admision has been set, colour-coded bracelets should be issued at entry and tickets should be taken. In addition, the grounds should be evaluated to ensure that there are sufficient emergency exits and I would like to see security numbers drastically increased and security personnel given necessary safety and crowd control training.

I am one of many people who are saying that unless the concert organizers, the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor and the province address the many failings of this year's Salmon Fest, it will be my last. However, if the interested parties listen to the public's concerns and do their best to address them, then maybe Salmon Fest 2014 will inspire a positive letter of comment. I really hope it does!

I am one of many people who are saying that unless the concert organizers, the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor, and the province address the many failings of this year's Salmon Fest, it will be my last.


Geri Holden


Organizations: Town of Grand Falls-Windsor

Geographic location: Grand Falls-Windsor

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Recent comments

  • Will Cole
    July 17, 2013 - 22:34

    @ Dee... sure, let St. John's take it all over. With all that incessant rain, drizzle and fog there'd be no more worries about anyone becoming dehydrated. Exposure and hypothermia could still be a problem though.

  • Jackie
    July 17, 2013 - 21:13

    this was my first Salmon Fest and had great fun! Law Suit...Get real! no one got killed or hurt. but I do feel GFW should really stop being so greedy!! with the amount of food and drinks offered was unbelievable, why were there only there own crappy food, why wasn't outside vendors welcomed to supply food and water to this size of an event! Why would you locate the entrance, water/pop table and small entrance into a too small an area for beer/food and toilets. Why would you set up toilets10 steps away from food? Poor planning...GFW should be ashamed of themselves for this set up.

  • Corporate Psycho
    July 17, 2013 - 20:59

    Well said. The town and promoters need to refund the VIP holders some money or Salmon Fest should be boycotted. Better yet boycott every business in GFW that you can.

  • april
    July 17, 2013 - 20:28

    3 weeks before this concert there was an ad on kijiji... Work secutiry at Salmon Fest, come to an open interview at the village mall. Maybe the security team should have been a professional one with years of training, not 3 weeks and not someone off the street who only wanted to attend the concert for free. As for long line ups and over crowding... Welcome to an outdoor rock music festival.

  • keith
    July 17, 2013 - 18:26

    I COuldn't agree more with the first comment. Greed and incompitance resulted in that mess. My biggest concern is the people we depend on to guard against greedy promoters, our emergency personal, signed off on this! Do we need a catastrophe to fix this? Shameful

  • carogers
    July 17, 2013 - 14:29

    Information for anyone who does not understand depriving water to people is a serious enough matter even the UN has officially defined its position on the human right to water and clean sanitation. In November 2002, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted General Comment No. 15 on the right to water. Article I.1 states that "The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights". Comment No. 15 also defined the right to water as the right of everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. On 28 July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights. Sources: •Resolution A/RES/64/292. United Nations General Assembly, July 2010 •General Comment No. 15. The right to water. UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, November 2002

  • Originally from Central
    July 17, 2013 - 14:28

    I totally agree with Jen. This is SALMONfest folks. It is a central NL (GFW) event and has been for many many years. Yes there were logistical issues (many of which shouldn't have existed) and some of these are beyond control, and many are not. HOWEVER, to suggest that SJ is the only place on this island that large events like this should be held???? GET REAL!!! I have lived in SJ for almost 30 years and to be honest the opportunity for me to take my daughters to such an event in Central, is a great experience. OVERALL we had a GREAT experience at Salmonfest and WILL be back again. I had issues yes, with the early lack of water, long lines, etc. Seems all was catered to the BEER garden issues over there. Yes, everyone has a right to voice their opinion, but talk of Class action lawsuits etc. Grow up people. Live and learn for some. Realize the situation u r in. If ur not comfortable, move back and enjoy the show. For me, I think one of the biggest disappointments was a band that were paid 1.2 million dollars to perform and couldn't even be bothered to really interact with the fans. No Hi GFW, great to be here, had a great time, is everyone having fun?, etc. That's the real slap in the face I think

  • original townie
    July 17, 2013 - 14:13

    @ Dee.....agree. There are other venues in St. John's that can accommodate. I just happened to pick that one because I felt it would be a great name :)

  • Dee
    July 17, 2013 - 11:43

    I can't remember Bowring park/Kilbride but I certainly remember Rod Stewart,Meatloaf,Brian Adam,Extreme,Great big Sea these were all outdoor concerts,yes the noise can get load but these were all fantastic outdoor concerts that went of without a hitch,yes if your water bottles are sealed you should be allowed to take them inside a gate the biggest parks in Canada and the US you can take snacks and drinks inside as long as they are sealed and @ original Townie if you are from St John's you know then it's not only the Waterfront that has open space.

  • Donna
    July 17, 2013 - 11:13

    I was also one of the unlucky VIP ticket holders who purchased under the assumption that there would only be 2,500 people in that section. My sister and I tried getting to the washroom area only to be near trampled in the bottleneck. They had one entrance to the beer/washroom facilities which was the ONLY way to get in and out of this area, that I was aware of. With security not keeping people in a controlled line, there were people four abreast going in and the same coming out...the entrance was way too small for this overcrowding. For a few moments as I was getting squeezed between the crowds going in and pushed back by the crowds exiting I was fearful that I would fall and be trampled. We were pushed and shoved for about 15 minutes in the crowd. My sister finally made it to the fence line which allowed her to get a breath of air and I was literally pushed so hard that I landed on a group of concert goers sitting by the fence in their chairs. As for my sister and I, we never did make it to the washroom area. We decided that it wasn't worth the risk to continue therefore we turned around and went outside the VIP section into the regular ticket holder section to the washrooms. Although the line-up was fantastic; the lack of decent food, the lack of water and the overcrowding making washroom trips impossible in the VIP section, made for a horrible experience. Emotionally the feeling of being crushed among thousands of concert-goers is unsettling. The panic we felt for those 15 minutes was something I would never want to experience again. Security and safety was a definite concern.

  • Darryl
    July 17, 2013 - 10:50

    Regardless of what excuse is being used, (counterfeit tickets, lawn chairs ) the VIP section was at least 3 times bigger than last year. Somebody knew they had to accomodate far more than 2500 people. There should be at least a refund in the price difference between general admission tickets and VIP tickets.

  • Alec C
    July 17, 2013 - 10:12

    Mile One under the stewardship of SJSE with HEAVY Council meddling/influence racked up $10 million in debt. GFW city council committee for Salmon Fest were in far over their heads, promoters greed shone through, 30 degree weather - perfect storm for dissatisfaction. Normally the response would be leave it to the professionals - BUT they were just as poorly organized as the committee. With all of the errors this should give GFW a reason to cancel their contract with the current promoter company with cause - no cancellation/legal fees incurred as a result. Vendors should be open to a tender like process for SF, giving 100% to a single vendor doesn't ensure fair prices or quality - usually the opposite. Has Salmon Fest gotten too big for their bridges? 25K is +10K over the entire population of GFW. VIP section was a disaster - how many free tickets were given away to sponsors or through the radio, why weren't these tickets general admission? Who checked if the people in VIP actually brought VIP tickets? 2.5K to 6K can only happen due to shear incompetence. Did they oversell VIP tickets because they saw an opportune time (when the first batch of VIP tickets went in < 90 mins?) to be even greedier? Everyone involved at the management level in this years SF should be ceremonially discharged NEVER to be allowed to organize this even ever again. Municipal elections province wide could see the majority of incumbents either not run of be handily defeated. Will this years SF be a GFW election issue?

  • original townie
    July 17, 2013 - 09:50

    @ Dee....great idea. We can call it "The Harbour Bubble Fest". Lots of room, lots of exits. No shortage of water.

  • Dee
    July 17, 2013 - 09:04

    Maybe it's time for the City of St.John's to take over these big events,at least people will have enough places to lay their heads at night .

    • Eli
      July 17, 2013 - 10:06

      You could have a point. While the acoustics at Mile One are hardly an issue when what you're getting is extra loud noise, I don't think St. John's can handle an outdoor event any more than Grand Falls-Windsor. Pretty sure they shagged one up in the Bowring Park/Kilbride ares some years back.

    • Jen Blackwood
      July 17, 2013 - 12:58

      I don't think having the Salmon Festival in St. John's will be much fun when fog rolls in at 5pm. Besides, it’s called "Salmon" Fest for a reason. It’s a great festival that is meant to be outdoors in central Newfoundland. There is plenty of space to put your head at night…if you’re not too fussy to camp. If you don’t want to be pushed around in the crowds then stay in the back of the filed. If you move closer to the stage you’re going to have less and less space (not rocket science). If this was your first time for an outdoor concert then maybe you didn’t know. Now you do.