Traffic and Dust Problems Overshadow Pemberton Festival's Big Name Line-Up

Traffic and Dust Problems Overshadow Pemberton Festival's Big Name Line-Up
Over the weekend, the Pemberton Festival brought artists like Jay-Z, Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails and the Flaming Lips to play to more than 40,000 festival-goers in the BC wilderness. But it also brought a fair share of chaos as well. According to several news reports, the inaugural music fest was marred by kilometres-long traffic jams, chaotic parking lots, choking clouds of dust, overflowing toilets and overworked medical tents.

After many fans got hung up on the 30-kilometre stretch of highway between Whistler and Pemberton— some for over five hours — they were greeted by parking situation that left many scratching their heads. "Getting here from Whistler was a nightmare,” festival-goer Adelle Papp told CBC News. "Then we paid $90 for parking, and we just stumbled on it. There was no one directing traffic, nothing.”

Exclaim! correspondent Amanda Ash faced a different obstacle when her bus turned over, forcing the passengers to escape through the emergency exits. "Our bus flipped last night because they didn't make the roads big enough to fit two cars. Awesome,” she reported. "I’ve never had to use the emergency escape before last night. It's kinda funny after the fact, especially since parts of this festival are a total disaster, as I'm sure you've already heard, but during the whole tipping process I thought I was going to die. Ha, ha.”

Amanda also gave a more detailed account of the traffic jam, adding, "There's only one road in and one road out, so traffic was a nightmare. Tour buses were late, obviously. I missed half the festival on Saturday because I was stuck in traffic for over three hours. Another reporter was stuck in traffic for six hours yesterday. Police couldn't get in and ambulances couldn't get out. Oh, and the place looks like a makeshift refugee camp because there were only a handful of garbage cans. All the papers on Friday pretty much said it was a gong show.”

Once everyone managed to pass all the traffic hurdles, many had to play the waiting game once more, with line-ups to get a beer, use the toilet and even get a bottle of water being almost as long as those on the highway. And while this may be expected for a festival of this size, concertgoers had to do it all while inhaling clouds of dust kicked up by the crowds on the farmer’s field-turned-festival site, forcing many to cover their faces with scarves to avoid inhaling the dust.

Over at the first aid tent, Dr. Samuel Gutman told the Vancouver Sun that the dust had been causing a lot of problems for some festival-goers. "With the dust, we’ve seen lots of respiratory illnesses, and lots of hay fever, which makes sense, given the floor is spread with hay."

He claims the medical team treated about 250 cases a day, with the roving response teams taking care of about 600 to 800 people a day. "To give you a persecutive, at Lion’s Gate, which is a main trauma receiving hospital, we’d see 120 a day,” Gutman told the Sun. "Friday we did over a hundred IVs. We actually completely exceeded our stock.”

Also, it seems the security wasn’t as tight as promised, causing many music fans to come out with complaints. "Security was giving up," concertgoer Chris Betts told the Canadian Press. "There were no checks and no one seemed to know who was in charge."

Another Pemberton audience member told the CBC: "It was kind of like going to a war zone. It feels like entering a refugee camp: tents, blowing dust and bright lights."

Yet, despite the problems, Pemberton Festival organizers are already talking about doing it all again next year. "In our inaugural year, there are obviously kinks and we have identified those issues and we have been taking notes and figuring out how we can improve,” festival producer Shane Bourbonnais of Live Nation told the Province newspaper. "We have already started looking at ways of fixing them, working toward a much smoother festival for next year.” The Flaming Lips live at Pemberton