The sizzling weather the Cowichan Valley has been enjoying is only adding to the buzz surrounding this year’s Sunfest Country Music Festival, which opens Thursday, July 30 and runs until Sunday, Aug. 2.
But, as well as posting the pictures of famous headliners and talking about the non-stop excitement of the huge event, organizers are working hard to improve every aspect of the festival experience.
In partnership with the Municipality of North Cowichan, Sunfest is stepping up its fire safety plans.
To reduce the risk of fires in the campground and concert bowl, festival organizers have placed a fire ban on propane fire pits and charcoal cooking devices.
Cooking appliances like stoves and barbecues must be four feet off of the ground at all times or they will not be permitted.
In addition, the North Cowichan fire department will maintain a 24-hour-a-day presence on the site, including a fire truck.
On top of that, strategically placed water stations throughout the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds, round the clock security and clearly marked designated smoking areas will greatly increase the safety of the event and reduce the risk of fires.
“This year’s Sunfest is shaping up to be another hot one, and similar to last year, we have an extensive plan in place” said Brad Coleman of the North Cowichan South End fire department.
“Fire crews and Sunfest staff will be doing our very best to educate and enforce safe practices to help ensure this year’s event is as safe as it can be. Crews will be cruising the site on bright orange ATV’s 24/7, so please feel free to stop us, say hello or ask questions. We are onsite for the safety of all patrons and feel that we have a good fire plan in place, working side by side with other safety personal and event staff to ensure public safety is priority number one,” he said.
Cigarette butts can be a problem with dry grass.
The Sunfest team is reminding everyone to please enjoy the festival safely and responsibly.
There are also some other real changes afoot at Sunfest 2015.
It’s now become a What You Bring In, You Pack Out event.
A Sunfest release says, “2014 saw a tremendous amount of waste left behind at individual campsites, and going forward, this kind of careless mentality towards the environment, staff and volunteer crew that work tirelessly to bring you Sunfest, will no longer be tolerated.
“Sunfest 2015 marks the first ever Leave No Trace policy at the event, which will be strictly enforced during the festival.”
What it all means is visitors and campers alike will be asked to utilize the proper recycling and waste receptacles provided by Sunfest onsite.
Organizers promise there will be plenty of well-marked bins, making it easy to properly dispose of recyclables and waste.
One of the discouraging sights for the Sunfest crew and motorists passing Exhibition Park last year was the amount of debris left behind.
“We ask that everyone packs out any additional belongings with them, including camping gear, chairs and tents, as these items were never designed to be single-use. The Sunfest team asks that you leave your campsite in the same pristine condition as when you entered the festival grounds.
Every year the Sunfest community grows and we need to work together to create an environmentally conscious and sustainable event,” the release concluded.
But, there are more changes coming to streamline Sunfest as well. This year, there will be no on-site single day parking spaces available.
The aim, organizers say, is to maximize full event parking and to increase the flow of traffic both in and out of the event.
With such a massive crowd, traffic control is important and 2015 will see increased traffic control coordination, with an orchestrated drop-off system for patrons and their gear.
In addition, there will be no campsite drop-offs in the campsite area, which should significantly reduce traffic, wait times and dust within the campsite access roads.
Anyone who took the handy shuttle bus last year knows what a great service it is and it’s back again for 2015.
A scheduled shuttle bus service will be running each day with pick-up and drop off locations at the Island Savings Centre in Duncan and at Fuller Lake Arena in Chemainus. Organizers are still working on placement of day parking lots.
As anyone who has ever visited Sunfest knows, keeping hydrated at the event is crucial to a healthy enjoyment of the festival.
A free watering station was really popular last year and this year, there will be more of them. So look around in the Concert Blow, by the campsite and near the Marketplace and keep your water bottle full.