Even when dancers like Kaydence Winter, shown here during Duncan Has Talent finals, perform on the grass, there is room for an appreciative audience that enjoys to watch. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

39 Days in Duncan replies to criticism of new rules for children at festival’s entertainment events

It’s all about respect for the performers and audience: 39 Days folks say

In an effort to calm what’s become a stormy issue, The 39 Days of July folks have issued a statement about kids at various entertainment events.

They posted a statement on their Facebook page addressing the controversy.

“The organizers of the 39 Days of July Cowichan Summer Festival have been harshly criticized on their publication of festival etiquette in the 2019 festival programme. Rick Martinson, Duncan Cowichan Festival Society president, recognizes that the message fell short of the intent and he apologizes for any misunderstanding.”

This year, organizers told festival-goers that children would not be welcome to play and dance in the space between the audience and the front of the stage. Furthermore, they set up a children’s tent where families could go to enjoy the music without distracting performers. They also warned parents and guardians not to allow children to climb on the cenotaph.

Longevity John Falkner, the festival artistic director, said, “It basically comes down to everyone being respectful of all the folks who attend this festival.”

Falkner is known for his lighthearted approach but he says “we never intended to compare kids to tomatoes.” He added that using the word “discipline” does not conjure up what they were trying to convey.

In spite of objections by some to the move, it’s been a success with both families and other festival-goers, organizers said.

“We have seen many families with children enjoying the festival without disturbing the performance,” said Ted Cadillac, sound technician. “The play area has been packed and gleeful laughter wafted to the stage with no problem. We had 800 people attend the Big River performance at City Square on Canada Day, and people of all ages were up dancing.”

The Festival folks also were contacted by Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples, who has children of her own and has attended the festival with her family many times.

However, she was taken by surprise by the section on festival etiquette and the reaction to it.

“As a parent I wasn’t thrilled by what I was hearing,” she posted to the City of Duncan website. “Once I asked festival organizers for more information and was given clarity around the intention and meaning, I still wasn’t happy about the language that had been used…but I understood it was meant to be lighthearted.”

Staples also said, “The City prides itself in being open and inclusive to people of all ages and abilities and supports events such as the 39 Days of July that do the same.”

After speaking to the festival’s president and being assured that this was indeed the case, Staples says she is looking forward to heading down to the park and City Square with her family and friends to enjoy the festival.

In replying to the post on Facebook, actor Bill Levity said, “They did a lovely job separating play area from dance and listening area. Makes you wonder what the fuss was about!”

Another reader, Steve Jones, said, “I’m grateful for some direction from the organizers about etiquette on the part of parents. Last night there were some adult dancers, however, who persist in standing right in front of the audience and the stage, blocking folks’ views and photo opportunities. I’m a bit baffled as to why they won’t dance to the side. Some dancers can be quite distracting when they do this.”

A reply, on the page, by The 39 Days people, said, “Understood. We are constantly asking people to remember that the audiences go back quite a distance and standing in front of others blocking their view becomes unsettling for many. This festival is about consideration and respect for all who attend and perform.”

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