A message from the Producer

As I write it has been exactly one week since the Evacuation on opening night. I
thought is best to give you the facts and why certain decisions were made.

Thursday Night Evacuation:
Our weather people had been tracking a storm for most of the day. A sudden wind gust broke in front of the storm. This is rare but it is the most dangerous type of wind as it gives no warning and is a gusting wind. This is exactly the scenario that led to the Big Valley fatality.

Big Valley was hit by 90km per hour winds, we were hit with 70km per hour winds. The wind did little damage but it led to a dangerous situation around our three video screens, the west one was hanging and the centre and east were swaying. There was a second wave of wind that was potentially “stronger and longer” and it had a better than 50% chance of hitting us ( it just missed in the end. )

Given what had happened to the video screens, never mind Big Valley, I didn’t make the “right” decision, I made the “only” decision, we had to evacuate.

On Sunday we faced exactly the same situation and from 4-7pm our team monitored the situation. We were on evacuation alert. Thankfully, forty five minutes approx. before the storm was to hit our site, the winds died down. I hope our weather alerts
kept you up to date.

The video screens would not have been working on Friday had bracing not been installed. I am confident that we will never again see swinging video screens. I was very happy that we had installed purpose built Mainstage sound and delay towers. This was as a direct result of Big Valley. The towers are anchored 18 feet underground and they are 5-10 times stronger than the scaffolding they replaced.

Why did we refund single tickets and not weekend pass holders. Simply put, a person who bought Thursday only got to see 2 out of 4 bands. Weekend pass holders could still see 62 of the 64 artists. I think this is a significant difference. The weekend passes are significantly discounted already as the Gate Value of a four day pass is $320.

The decision to cancel was relatively easy. As difficult as the weather conditions were for the audience on Sunday night, they are harder on our site crew and other over-worked crews. We had planned a long Finale of 15 minutes. It was better to end the festival on the energy of St. Paul and the Broken Bones.

Despite the challenges, there was an overwhelmingly positive spirit to the festival with, I hope, some noticeable improvements on site. The Decemberists and Shakey Graves have been paid their full fees, as per contracts and both have been invited back next year, it is too early to know their summer plans for 2018.

I hope this clears up any misconceptions or rumours. You cannot take a 50/50 chance with safety. While the “wind safety check” was costly, it will make us safer in future years. I thought we were saving money for the proverbial “rainy day”, it turns out we were saving it for a windy day.

To your health,
Terry Wickham ( Producer )