While Squamish Valley Music Festival (SVMF) organizers wrapped up their lineup announcement party on Jan. 29, social media was abuzz.
More than 300,000 people visited the festival’s Facebook page and 600,000 hit up its website. Approximately 92 million music fans saw SVMF Facebook posts by their favourite bands and 18 million read SVMF-related tweets. By the end of the day, Squamish was one of Twitter’s top trending words in Canada.
The hype was big. Really big. With artists like R&B singer Bruno Mars, Canadian favourites Arcade Fire and mega-star Eminem, the fifth SVMF promises to be the largest one yet — almost doubling in size from 19,000 festival-goers to 35,000.
Behind the star-studded media blitz, District of Squamish officials, RCMP and SVMF organizers are making plans to sooth the masses’ arrival during the festival Aug. 8 to 10.
“We are still putting all the pieces together,” the festival’s executive producer Paul Runnals said.
In April, organizers plan to host a town hall meeting for residents. Right now, Runnals is working alongside experts who oversaw the Vancouver Olympic Committee’s transportation program during the 2010 Winter Games. Before the festival received approval to expand, organizers had to prove the Sea to Sky Highway could handle the additional traffic.
“We did analysis and 45,000 is what the road and parking can support,” Runnals said.
SVMF is beefing up its shuttle service. There will be runs from Whistler and Vancouver to Squamish. Buses will also link downtown to the various campgrounds.
In early March, festival organizers are meeting with Squamish RCMP. The department was aware of SVMF’s growth plans a year ago, RCMP Staff Sgt. Brian Cumming said. Besides keeping the peace, police plan to address transportation issues with SVMF backers, he said.
Officers were brought in for last year’s event, with an estimated 18 police having patrolled during peak hours. This year, 500 private security guards will roam the campgrounds and pedestrian routes to the festival, Runnals said, adding non-residents and their vehicles will be restricted from roadways near Brennan Park Recreation Centre.
“We will have a separate security manager who is focused entirely on the community,” Runnals said.
SVMF hired the City of Vancouver’s special events manager, Dan Campbell, to oversee the festival’s waste management. Campbell ran trash operations for Vancouver’s Celebration of Lights, which last year drew 1.2-million revellers over three nights of fireworks. In an effort to recycle, all garbage will be hand-sorted by Carney’s Waste Systems, Runnals said.
The 2014 festival is expected to generate more than $55 million in economic spin-offs for the region, district officials said in a statement. But the festival’s long-term success requires community support, Mayor Rob Kirkham stated.
“It goes without saying that bringing thousands of visitors to town for a three-day music festival does not come without an impact, and the community must recognize this plan accordingly,” he said.
District staff examined the municipality’s infrastructure capacity when reviewing the festival’s size, Coun. Patricia Heintzman said.
“Certainly our septic system can handle this,” she said.
Fire department, police, landfill tipping fess and use of municipal facilities will all be covered by the festival, Heintzman said.
“I think a lot was learned from last year,” she added.
When the festival’s lineup was announced, the Chieftain Hotel was half booked. By the next day it was full, said Jenny Wu, the hotel’s executive assistant.
“Everyone was calling,” she said.
Last year’s festival had its hiccups, Wu said, but she’s hopeful things will be smoother this time around. One thing’s for sure: The Chieftain won’t be putting out the “vacancy” sign.
“The festival definitely helps [business],” Wu said.