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Return on investment

Businesses learn how to handle large crowds at the Pemberton Festival

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Now that the 40,000 concert goers have filed out of Pemberton along Highway 99, businesses in town are counting their money and going over what went right and wrong during the Pemberton Music Festival weekend.

And while some business owners admit they have a few kinks to work out for next year, almost everyone said the weekend was a great success and they want it back again.

“We kicked ass,” said Seth Shuster from Mountain Heroes, a recently opened restaurant in Pemberton.

“We were at capacity the whole time. I couldn’t have done any better. There were 75 people on my patio the whole time. Then at about 8 o’clock, it would go completely dead, and we were able to go to the show as well.”

Tom Horler, owner of the McDonald’s restaurants in both Whistler and Pemberton, reported a record-breaking 288 per cent increase in sales at his Pemberton restaurant on Monday, July 28, and a 72 per cent increase in Whistler.

“We did not know what to anticipate, because the only gauge we had was the (McDonald’s) restaurant in Merritt that gets impacted by the Merritt Music Festival,” said Horlder.

“A 300 per cent increase is an interesting challenge, but we managed to get through it. We had an interesting perspective, having restaurants in both communities, and we saw an incredible impact in both. The real bottom line is that we learned some things from this year, and we would really, really welcome it to come back next year.”

To prepare for the festival, Horler increased his staff and product, as well as ordering extra product, at the two McDonald’s restaurants. The only thing he would do differently next year, he said, would be to provide McDonald’s food on the festival grounds — like salads, apple slices and juice.

Mick Richmond, owner of the Pony Espresso, said one thing he would prepare better for next year were busy mornings, and quiet afternoons and evenings.

“On Friday, it died after one. On Saturday, it got quiet after 2:30 p.m., and on Sunday, it was quiet after 4 p.m.,” explained Richmond.

“We did very well during the day, it was great. It would have been nice to known that there would be no evening business. I would have redistributed my staff better and not stocked up on much night product.”

Victor Lee, owner of AG Foods, added that even though his store was busy the whole week, he was actually over prepared for the crowds.

“The people that came early, on Tuesday and Wednesday, they were the ones that were buying everything up,” said Lee.

“Later, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, people just wanted to buy drinks and ice. All the rest they didn’t touch.”

Next year, Lee said he would have more temporary tills in his store to make the lineups go faster, as well as have more food available that people could just grab-and-go.

Almost everyone commented that they were pleasantly surprised over the weekend by how polite and happy all the festival attendees were.

“Given the challenge of getting them all into the site on time and everything, they seemed like a really happy crowd,” commented Trish Sturdy of North Arm Farms, which sold fresh fruit and pastries on the festival grounds in the farmer’s market area.

“I think all of us Pemberton producers — in the little market area — thought it went really well.”

Sturdy added that to her surprise, business on their farm was dead, and most people tended to stay at the concert or only go into town during the weekend.

Alexandra Ross, the economic development consultant for Area C and the Village of Pemberton, said that the feedback she has gotten so far about the festival has been “extremely positive”.

“Right now we are in the middle of debriefing, and we are just starting to collect the data and experiences and everything,” said Ross.

“The general tone has basically been very positive. The farmers at the farmer’s market were very happy, and they were known at the festival for the best food on the site. And in general, businesses were really busy. Some of them experienced between 200 to 300 per cent increases.”

She added that most businesses recognize that this was a learning experience, and if the festival comes back next year, they will have a better idea how to prepare for the crowds.

As to whether or not she wants it back next year, both Sturdy, Shuster, and Lee all answered with a resounding, “Absolutely.”

“I would welcome it with open arms. They obviously have issues to deal with, but I am sure they can deal with them, and I am looking forward to next year already,” said Sturdy.

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