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Ottawa Bluesfest wants to move to Hog's Back

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Bluesfest wants to abandon downtown for Hog's Back

Festival Plaza too small for crowds, officials say

Ken Gray

The Ottawa Citizen

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Organizers of Ottawa Bluesfest want to move one of downtown's biggest events from Ottawa City Hall to Hog's Back Park -- less than a month before the festival is slated to begin, says a city official.

Bluesfest staff met with senior city officials yesterday to discuss the proposed location, said Mark Chiappa, the city's special events co-ordinator.

Mr. Chiappa said Bluesfest organizers are concerned Festival Plaza in front of City Hall is not big enough to handle crowds of up to 30,000 that attend the event, billed as the second-largest blues festival in North America.

But Mr. Chiappa said he is concerned there is not enough time to co-ordinate security, policing, transit, emergency medical response and the lease arrangement with the city for Festival Plaza by the festival's July 8 start date. The city leases the site to the festival on a cost-recovery basis.

"I don't think it is going to happen that quickly," he said.

Mr. Chiappa did not attend yesterday's meeting, but he has been involved in previous talks with Bluesfest over the Hog's Back location.

The city has concerns about safety at Hog's Back, with its falls and cliffs, Mr. Chiappa said. The park -- along the Rideau River, between Hog's Back and Heron roads -- is controlled by the National Capital Commission. No one from the NCC could be reached for comment.

Councillor Maria McRae, whose River Ward includes the park, said city staff are concerned emergency vehicles would not be able to use Hog's Back Road because of traffic congestion from Bluesfest, and the Hope Volleyball SummerFest, at nearby Mooney's Bay Beach, on July 9.

The two huge events could draw as many as 48,000 people to the area at the same time, Ms. McRae said.

"Staff must tell me this is safe and we are not overwhelming Riverside Park and Carleton Heights," Ms. McRae said. "We should make sure that Bluesfest should happen in the safest place."

Ms. McRae said the downtown site is a good one and that the surrounding hotels and downtown business associations should be consulted about moving the blues festival.

Ms. McRae said councillors could meet tomorrow to discuss allowing the closing of Laurier Avenue, from the Rideau Canal bridge to Elgin Street, during the Bluesfest to give the event more space.

Meanwhile, Al Campion, a spokesman for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, said there were some problems last year at Bluesfest with crowding, and the commission will keep a close eye on this year's event.

Bluesfest applied for a special occasion permit for the City Hall site on May 19.

Bluesfest executive director Mark Monahan could not be reached for comment.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2005

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And now this from the Ottawa Sun. Phew. I feel better:

Tue, June 14, 2005

City rejects Hog's Back stage for Bluesfest


A last-minute bid by Bluesfest organizers to move the event to Hog's Back Park has ended on a sour note -- rejected by city staff because of traffic, noise and safety concerns.

Bluesfest president Mark Monahan had proposed the move but met resistance from emergency services who worried about access.

Monahan denied that he wanted to move the festival this year.

"I'm not sure who's given you that information," he said yesterday. "We're three weeks out from the event. How can we go? There's no way we could move."

Several sources said it was clear the move was intended for this summer. The idea of moving the concert so close to its July 8 launch date surprised many.

"I'm blown away we're looking at something three weeks in advance," said Coun. Maria McRae, who represents the area.

She said she would prefer to see the event stay downtown.

Yesterday, police and fire officials and McRae met Monahan to discuss the issue and future sites.


McRae said there was talk about closing Laurier Ave. for longer periods to accommodate the concerts.

Bluesfest organizers had already been discussing the move to Hog's Back with NCC officials but no deal had been reached.

"Bluesfest has to resolve some issues with the city before we can make any kind of decision on whether or not they can be on the site at Hog's Back," said NCC spokeswoman Lucie Caron, adding that the proposal was for this year.

The 11-day festival is scheduled to begin in July on the lawns of City Hall, as it did last year.

Ab Campion, a spokesman for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, said Bluesfest has applied for but has not yet received a licence to serve liquor. He said the commission was waiting for information before issuing the permit.


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