Pemberton’s annual barn dance didn’t quite go off without a hitch this year.
Last weekend’s festivities closed on a sour note when hundreds of partygoers were left stranded on the side of the road in the wee hours of the morning. Many had paid $10 to Glacier Coach Lines to be shuttled to and from the event.
Joel Wilson, owner of Glacier Coach Lines, said buses were scheduled to leave Whistler at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. and pick people up from the dance, which was at the Root House on Pemberton Meadows Road, at midnight and 1 a.m.
“We did all of our trips that we were booked and paid for, and we did every single trip, and on time,” said Wilson.
He said two 47-passenger buses and two 20-passenger buses were used to transport people to and from the party. Wilson said there simply wasn’t enough room for the number of people who attended the party.
He added he is out pocket from the evening.
Glacier had buses working at a wedding about 10 kilometres just down the road, and Wilson said when his drivers tried to pass the people waiting outside of the barn dance, the “mob” got angry and attacked his vehicles, causing over $7,000 in damage.
“We will never, ever do the barn dance again. We will be going after Pemberton Chamber of Commerce,” said Wilson.
Mark Blundell is vice-president of the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce, one of the four organizations that teamed up to organize the 12 th annual barn dance.
Blundell said there were communication problems between organizers and the bus company, and he is not sure who is to blame for the problem. But he points out that in past years, organizers have arranged for bus service until 2 a.m.
“It would be very, very unlikely that we would enter into an agreement where we didn’t have service until at least two o’clock in the morning,” he said.
Blundell said bus service is important for an event like the barn dance, because it is held in an isolated area and organizers don’t want people drinking and driving.
“From the Chamber’s point of view, to put a function on that huge and not recognize that safety is a factor would be irresponsible of us, and I don’t think that happened,” said Blundell.
Cpl. Paul Vadik of Sea to Sky RCMP said dealing with the aftermath from the barn dance was a huge problem.
“It was quite a difficult time for the police to manage — over 400 drunk people, drunk and upset that the buses they were promised weren’t there and (they) were basically stranded.”
Cpl. Vadik said he isn’t impressed with the situation — and this isn’t the first year that transportation has been an issue with the annual Pemberton Barn Dance.
In previous years, “they just didn’t have adequate buses at the end of the night and it’s becoming a huge problem for the police.”
Police and volunteers ended up loading people into the back of pickup trucks and police cruisers to get them from the venue, which is about 15 kilometres from the village of Pemberton.
“The police aren’t in the business of being taxis,” said Cpl. Vadik.
Blundell said he understands that police are unhappy about the breakdown in transportation, and plan to sit down with the RCMP and the bus company to figure out what went wrong, and how the problem can be resolved for next year.
Cpl. Vadik said officers went above and beyond to ensure that people had a safe way home, but that they shouldn’t have to get involved in transportation issues.
“We had to divert our resources to manage the closing of the barn dance and the people left stranded when we could have been out doing roadblocks in strategic places and catching impaired drivers.”
Despite the significant transportation issues, Blundell said the event was a huge success, with approximately 1,200 people in attendance, and almost $30,000 raised.