Members of the public have had their first peek at Laketown Ranch, and the excitement is building.
On June 10, the location, which will host the Sunfest Country Music Festival next month, held an open house and mini concert, allowing media and community members to explore the site, which is still under construction.
Laketown Ranch and Sunfest founder Greg Adams brought visitors up onto the venue’s main stage, which he described as the largest in Canada.
“This whole venue here was built for two people. It was built for the artist… [And] it was built for the customer,” said Adams.
The structure itself is made primarily of concrete and steel, with some wood along the stage’s outer perimeter that will allow for the use of pyrotechnics, confetti guns and a trap door from which entertainers can be raised.
Immediately in front of the stage is the pit, followed by the reserved section and beyond that, general admission.
“The pit is where the kids come in, they like to get close to the artist… Why the pit is designed like this and reserve goes behind? Because that’s what the entertainer wants.”
Adams said that a recurring complaint he’s heard from artists is there’s nothing worse than giving the performance of a lifetime and to not have the audience up close, in their face, cheering their guts out.
“One entertainer, Chris Young, he came off [stage] once and said, ‘There’s a lady out there knitting.’ Entertainers have feelings. I know they get paid, but why they became entertainers is they thrive off of the audience response. And if you want a good show, give the entertainer energy.”
Tours of the grounds, which are still very much under construction, included horseback rides along the roadways up to the campgrounds, behind the main bowl. Grass has only just begun to sprout up around the site and Adams said they’re still praying for more rain. Visitors arriving at Laketown Ranch were asked by organizers to drive slowly to reduce dust.
Emmalee Brunt, public relations and marketing manager for Sunfest, said that Laketown Ranch has drilled a well in order to draw its own water.
“We have a fairly substantial aquifer underneath this property,” she said. “We’ve been going through the process of getting it tested. We all know it’s potable, but we obviously have to get that tested.”
Brunt said there will be a campfire ban and she anticipates that, like last year at the Cowichan Exhibition grounds, campers will only be permitted to use propane stoves that are at least 3.5 feet off the ground. She said last year she found people were respectful of designated smoking areas.
As for preventing people from sneaking into Laketown Ranch during Sunfest, Brunt said that while they will have substantial fencing set up around the site it will not be possible for them to fence the entire perimeter.
“We are going to have security outposts way in the back, and people aren’t going to be permitted to access this side road [west of the festival grounds], so unless you’re trudging through the forest…,” she said, adding that while every festival will have people who manage to successfully sneak in, Sunfest is working to increase use of RFID wrist band technology.
“We’re going to do our best. If we see a major problem, a lot of people sneaking in from a certain area, then we’ll just beef up our security in that area.”
Brunt acknowledged that the lighting and projection booth located about 100 feet directly in front of the main stage may pose an obstacle to some audience members, but said there will be a screen directly behind it for any audience members who are not able to see the stage.
“I know it’s unfortunate that it’s right there, but I think this year’s going to be interesting at Sunfest to see how that disruption impacts sightlines and what we can do to maybe change that,” she said.
In his address, Adams outlined some of the possible uses for Laketown Ranch besides concerts and music festivals, such as bike trails, the start/finish point for a half-marathon and even a drive-in theatre using their projection equipment and a large screen over the stage frame.
“You could be watching the Stanley Cup hockey game or the world series because we can shoot a projector against this and make it into a drive-in,” he said. “The possibilities for this whole thing is whatever your imagination is.”
The venue is designed to sell up to 18,000 tickets depending on the event.