Metal concert too heavy for county

Red Deer County has pulled the plug on a proposed heavy metal music festival because of security concerns.

Red Deer County has pulled the plug on a proposed heavy metal music festival because of security concerns.

Council unanimously rejected approving a permit Tuesday for the three-day Labour Day weekend event being considered for the Benalto Fair Grounds.

Bob Dixon, the county’s senior patrol officer, had a long list of concerns with the inaugural event organized by Edmonton’s BCT Productions and Gunrunner International Independent Music Network.

Dixon said the county has been unable to determine if the group has any experience running an event of this kind on one of the busiest weekends of the year.

“For this reason, there are concerns about the availability of RCMP if problems arise, as they are usually busy, particularly at night, during long weekends,” Dixon told council.

As part of a submission, concert backers said they planned to hire two off-duty Sylvan Lake RCMP officers to help keep an eye on the crowd.

However, when Dixon checked that out with police the Sylvan Lake detachment commander said no officers would be allowed to work security at the event.

Dixon said he was also unable to confirm that other promised security personnel, St. John’s Ambulance staff and volunteer firefighters would be coming.

In a report to council, Dixon notes that the heavy metal-focused Coors Lite Trauma Tour event in Sylvan Lake drew many clients who “exhibited extremely negative behaviour which resulted in a high police presence and response.

“It is reasonable to assume that some of these same elements may be drawn to the proposed event in Benalto, given the similarities in genre.”

Cameron Noyes, one of the Edmonton organizers of the Harvesting Hell — Metal Open Air event, was disappointed with the county’s adversarial approach to the event, which has already been moved to Bent River Ranch near Drayton Valley.

Noyes, who regularly organizes festivals, said security was to be handled by professional firms with experience in major events such as the Big Valley Jamboree and a large group of volunteers. While off-duty Sylvan Lake officers were not available, police could have been hired from elsewhere.

Noyes said he can’t believe that concerns over some “yahoos” in Sylvan Lake would sink a professionally organized music event.

But when it became clear that the county was not supportive, organizers found another venue for the event. It is expected to attract up to 1,200 heavy metal and hard rock fans to a lineup including Atheist, Gnostic, Dayglo Abortions and Dead Jesus. Event information can be found at www.harvestinghell.com

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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