As of now (Aug. 27), North Vancouver's Shipyards Festival is still going ahead and a killer band lineup has been announced.
What's a little up in the air is how the event, which is expected to draw a crowd of more than 10,000 to Lower Lonsdale, will be regulated with a question mark hanging over whether or not there will be a crowd capacity limit. It's all dependent on the COVID-19 Provincial Health Orders come Sept. 25, when the festival is scheduled to take place.
Back in July, City of North Vancouver council voted unanimously to contribute $20,000 for the Lower Lonsdale Business Improvement Association to put on the return of the festival. For 10 straight hours, bands will play on four stages set up in The Shipyards with the entire event included in a site-wide liquor licence. It will also feature artisan vendors and activities for young’uns.
The event is set to feature a number of intimate and emerging artists, that include Bedouin Soundclash, The Zolas, Astrocolour, XL the Band, IAMTHELIVING, Small Town Artillery, Harlequin Gold, MNGWA, Via Barcelonia, Turunesh, and more.
While Premier John Horgan confirmed this month that the current spike in COVID-19 cases would delay the province’s plans to move into Step 4 of its four-step Restart Plan on Sept. 7, Greg Holmes, executive director of LLBIA, said the festival is still happening.
“As of now, it is,” he confirmed.
Although the LLBIA had hoped Sept. 7 would confirm they would not need to have a capacity limit on the festival, Holmes said while that wasn't likely the case, it wouldn’t stop them from offering a great event.
“If the restrictions don't change between now and the end of September, which is unlikely, we will continue with capacity limits,” he said.
"Outdoor events are taking place with substantial crowds and they're permitted to, so we're operating under that premise right now.”
Under Step 3 of the province’s restart plan, fairs, festivals, trade shows and stand-up receptions can return to normal operations with a communicable disease plan. While outdoor organized seated gatherings can have a capacity of 5,000 people or 50 per cent capacity, whichever is greater, Holmes said he did not know for sure yet what capacity the festival would be subject to.
The last time the city hosted the Shipyards Festival, in 2019, more than 15,000 people attended.
Holmes said given the current regulations, patrons should anticipate having to register or get tickets to the festival for the first time to manage crowd capacity.
“Now, it still will be free,” he said. “But if there are restrictions on how many people can attend, then yes, we will need people to register in advance.
“Our big hope is that capacity limits will be removed by the end of September, and we can just invite everybody.”
On top of securing a ticket, Holmes said festival-goers should expect to be checked for vaccine cards after the government also announced that it is bringing in a vaccination-card system. By September 13, customers must have had at least one dose of vaccine in order to enter restaurants, bars, concerts, and other non-essential venues in B.C.
“Given the most recent announcement, I suspect we'll be checking for vaccine passports,” he said.
And, while there were new COVID-19 regulations announced this week, including the return of a mask mandate provincewide for indoor public settings, Holmes said most of the new regulations would not affect the event.
“As we've reminded people, almost all the new rules are talking about indoor space,” Holmes said. “There were no new restrictions put in place for outdoor space.”
Holmes said patrons could rest assured all COVID-19 safety protocols would be in place at the festival.
“At the end of the day, our prime concern, outside of providing some joy and entertainment for the community, is providing a safe space and given that we're working closely with the City of North Vancouver, yes, we will have all COVID protocols in place, whatever those may be when that date arrives,” he said.
“We're just going to continue to react and adapt as more information comes in, as we always do, and ensure that we can put on a fun, safe event.”
Robert Skene, director of community and partner engagement for the City of North Vancouver, said given the province’s announcement about the delay of Step 4, City staff would be “in discussions with the LLBIA about their plans and to ensure that all provincial health orders and safety measures for public events will be met for this free and accessible outdoor community event.”
Despite a little uncertainty around regulations, Holmes said he was really pleased with the efforts of the team to make the festival a reality and to secure some great bands for the line-up, taking a moment to brag, just a little.
“Several months ago, we decided that we were going to approach this as though the pandemic was over,” he said, adding that the sponsorships team really stepped up and the production company managed to secure some really great bands.
“We were in the midst of this planning back when most other groups were still sitting on their hands trying to figure out what was going on. That allowed us to get a bit of a jump start on other communities.
"We're still hopeful that it'll be the first large-scale free music festival open to all in Metro Vancouver [since COVID restrictions].“Our biggest challenge, I suspect, will be just managing the interest and the traffic down here because I think much of Metro Vancouver is going to want to check it out.”
Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.