A&E » Arts

Is Whistler good for event producers?

Basically, it depends on whom you ask



With the summer's Festivals, Events & Animation (FE&A) ready to launch this weekend—not to mention the loss of the X Games bid and the cancellation of Jazz on the Mountain at Whistler — events and event planning is top of mind in the community. Pique is running a two part series exploring Whistler's past, present and future with events.

In four months, Whistler will play host to one of the most progressive, eco-conscious festivals currently active in North America. Blending indie rock and electronica with yoga and other avenues for well being, the Wanderlust Festival seems an ideal match for the neo-hippie ideologies that underlie Whistler's every move.

At least, that's been the experience so far for the festival's organizers. Since last fall, Whistler's various stakeholders, including the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and Tourism Whistler (TW), have met with Wanderlust organizers to ensure the festival's success.

"It's as streamlined as working with five or six other stakeholders can be, and certainly the effort has been made to make it streamlined," says Sean Hoess, co-founder of Wanderlust.

The success of the festival seems likely, capturing an aspect of Whistler culture not currently targeted in the town's more successful festivals like the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, Crankworx, Cornucopia and, increasingly, the Whistler Film Festival.

Though for every successful event organizers here have hosted or hope to host, others have flopped or failed to materialize for a myriad of reasons, many of which cannot be addressed easily. Over the last two weeks Pique has spoken to over a dozen people involved in trying to make Whistler's event planning successful — most of them would not go on the record with their comments given the delicate nature of growing Whistler's cultural offerings in the years to come. But as the resort moves ahead with its plans to grow cultural tourism and events many are looking critically at what has worked, and what hasn't, with a look to finding success in the future.

The challenges are low community support for niche and ticketed events, the structural hierarchy that event producers are forced to go through, and the inefficiencies of the RMOW's events department and other event stakeholders past and present.

Jazz on the Mountain at Whistler cancelled its second year last month as a result. In 2007, the Whistler Music and Arts Festival was cancelled and TW hired third-party event producers to organize big-tent music acts. KISS was slated to play that year but the show was cancelled for logistical issues. A year earlier, 2006, Xavier Rudd cancelled a high-profile gig at the Conference Centre after refusing to pay a $25,000 damage deposit to use the venue — and these are only the high profile cases. On the cultural side the Whistler Theatre Project stalled for lack of funding, and The Pick of the Vancouver Fringe Festival bombed due to low attendance.