Centre of Gravity wants to revisit August long weekend

KELOWNA — The stage is set for the launch of the Centre of Gravity at Kelowna’s City Park.

Festival founder Scott Emslie has been tweaking the event since its inception in 2007.  Critics have long said the event only appealed to the younger crowd.

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“I think over the last couple of years we’ve seen a younger, and younger crowd coming and that’s one of the things we wanted to do this year, is just diversify a little bit,” says Emslie.  “We’re not going completely away from where we’ve been but we’ve brought in a bunch of really big acts that should draw a bit of a wider demographic like Tegan and Sara, Chromeo, J. Cole. The appeal for artist like that is a little big wider than the electronic music that we’ve been booking a lot in the past.”

The event was also a magnet for gangs. RCMP went public this week saying that gang members are not welcome. Emslie says the police warning was little overblown.

“I understand the importance of sending the message that gangs aren’t welcome and if it helps deter gangs I’m 100 per cent behind it. I don’t think it should be a reflection of our event because I just don’t see the gang members here,” he says.

Gangs or no gangs, RCMP say they’ll be out in full force.

“Everyone’s backpacks are searched — no liquid or drinks allowed onto the site,” says Sgt. Ann Morrison. “The cursory searches consist of person searches, fanny packs, backpacks, those kind of things.”

One of the big changes to this year’s festival is not so much what’s happening inside the grounds but rather outside. Emslie says he’s hired a number of by-law officers to deal with complaints, particularly parking.

Another big change is the date. The three day event has been traditionally held on the August long weekend, but Emslie agreed to change the date to help ease the burden on the RCMP and its resources.

He says the date change has translated into softer ticket sales.

“We’re about 90 per cent sold, but over the last three years we’ve sold out well in advance, so we’re a little bit lower compared to past years, but we’re still confident that on the weekend of, we’ll get to that sold out number or at least close to it,” says Emslie.

He says he would like to revisit the idea of going back to the August long weekend next year.

“At this point, our main concern is just getting through this weekend, making sure it’s a good, safe, clean event but it’s definitely something that’s in our minds and we want to open up those discussions in August and start talking to the community about it,” he says.

In an attempt to make up for the softer sales, for the first time, tickets are being sold at the gate.

The gates open Friday at 10 a.m.