Kitchener imposes ‘unfair’ conditions on Ever After Fest

The City of Kitchener has really let down a lot of people in how they have reacted to some complaints from last year’s Ever After Fest.

City council recently made the decision to grant festival organizer Beyond Oz Productions a noise exemption for the popular annual event.

The real problem, however, is the list of conditions they have imposed.

There are three main items on the list for the exemption and all are unfair to say the least. 

 Photo: Ever After Fest

Photo: Ever After Fest

Let’s start with the easiest of the three. The council has decided that no profanity should be heard in neighbourhoods surrounding the event.

This is completely unnecessary.

According to Beyond Oz Productions president Gabriel Mattacchione, the artists at the event have mitigation of offensive language built into their contracts.  That is as far as they can go with that and it is ridiculous to assume that they have any more control over that aspect. The festival has done what they can.

Moving on.

The festival is being forced to keep the noise level down to 55 dBA in surrounding areas. That’s ten decibels lower than the 65 dBA limit from last year, which is comparable to normal street noise.

This noise level is an absurd expectation for any music festival, but thanks to Mattacchione it seems like it should be a non-issue for fans and haters alike.  He has boasted about a new technology that will limit the noise going out of the park while also improving the experience that the fans have come to love.

“The new technology is made by a well-known company called PK Sound,” he said. “It allows us to manually change the direction of the sound and focus the direction solely on the venue in real time while the event is going on.”

 Photo: Ever After Fest

Photo: Ever After Fest

On top of the new technology, the weather is always a factor as well.  There are certain weather conditions that carry sound much further than others, which was a factor at last years’ event, according to Councillor Kelly Galloway-Sealock.

“There was a weather inversion last year that helped the sound travel further at a larger volume,” she said.

The sound level should not be a problem in 2018 between the hopeful lack of a weather inversion and the new technology and yet the council still feels the need to please the few people who do not enjoy the music.

“There will always be complaints no matter what the genre of music is,” said Mattacchione.
“Music is subjective and not everyone will like what is being programmed. It disturbs me that no other event has been put under these regulations due to complaints in the past, nor do I think they will in the future. Unless they start to program electronic music of course.”

While it is true that music is subjective and there will always be complaints, council has said that Ever After last year received more than ever. This includes past festivals that made their way to the city like Big Music Fest and CMT Fest not long ago, and not to mention what is arguably the city’s biggest tourist attraction, Oktoberfest.

When asked about the difference between past festivals versus Ever After and why this is the festival that they’ve decided to crack down on, Councillor Galloway-Sealock declined to answer.

The festival, and more specifically the music, is being singled out.

 Photo: Ever After Fest

Photo: Ever After Fest

Only about 100 noise complaints were made last year, and while the city has satisfied those people, they have dropped the ball for an event that brings tens of thousands of people to the Region.

It’s not only the noise levels either. The festival is being forced to shut down on its last and quite possibly biggest day of the year. The organizers are being told to shut down the festivities at 9 p.m., which is insane, especially considering it is an electronic music festival that relies largely on light displays that will only show as the night grows darker.

Even Councillor Galloway-Sealock agrees that the end time is unreasonable.

“The decision was not unanimous, the council as a whole did not support the 9 p.m., end time but the majority did,” she said, “I didn’t (support it). I thought it should go longer.”

The festival is being discriminated against in a big way and it needs to stop.  If the city continues to single out the festival, it will force the organizers to pick a more cooperative and understanding location to bring their business to.

“It is a real shame that the city lets the voices of 100 people out of more than 200,000 residents dictate their decision on something like Ever After that brings so much economic benefit to the city and region,” said Mattacchione.

 Photo: Ever After Fest

Photo: Ever After Fest

He said he really enjoys bringing the festival to Kitchener-Waterloo, mainly for the venue at Bingemans, which he and his team call the “unicorn venue.” He hopes to keep it here but may consider other options.

“I love Bingemans and everything they do,” he said. “This place is really the reason Ever After exists. That being said, things are much easier to do in other regions and it is something we will have to evaluate at the end of the year.”

Its something that the Council has talked about and yet the decision was still made in a way that is pushing the festival to other venues.

“We definitely have the ability to impact what they do in the future,” said Galloway-Sealock.

So now that we are just over three months out from the event, council has enough time to re-evaluate their decision.  Do the voices of 100 people who don’t enjoy the music outweigh the economic benefit that Ever After brings to the city? 

The answer is no.  It’s time to head back to the drawing board.