‘Controlled chaos’ normal for festival

"Bringing together all the elements needed to deliver this festival is huge."

More than 170 volunteers on the construction crew have been working hard (right) to get the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds ready.

More than 170 volunteers on the construction crew have been working hard (right) to get the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds ready.

The performers are signed — all the tickets have been sold — and people are working hard on deadline with the herculean task of building a small city for Vancouver Island MusicFest.

Making the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds festival ready is the job of VIMF production site manager Cresslynn Fay.

“Bringing together all the elements needed to deliver this festival is huge,” says Fay. “At times it looks and feels like controlled chaos, but it all happens for a reason.”

With more then 170 volunteers on the construction crew, Fay and assistant site manager Amy James are overseeing the transformation of the grounds. They had only 4.5 days to get it done, so they’ve been working themselves and their crews for 12 to 14 hours a day.

Festival crews have built six performance stages, installed 8,000 feet of fencing, used 6,500 feet of extension cords, and put up 1,600 feet of Christmas lights.

A dozen volunteers need four days just to put in the power.

This year, for the first time, the festival is not relying on generators to power the site. The Comox Valley Regional District recently installed a 1,200-amp, three-phase service system to the CVEX grounds.

“We’re thrilled with this change,” says Fay. “It’s great to have a stable system that finally meets the power demands of the festival.”

More than 9,500 people are expected to attend the 2012 VI MusicFest from this Friday to Sunday.

There will be 250 artists performing on six stages. Managing everything performer-related is head of performer services Marcy Jaster. Whether it’s travel and border issues, hotel rooms or backstage hospitality, Jaster manages it all.

“Performers can be a demanding bunch,” jokes Marcy. “We treat them very well and they always leave VI MusicFest feeling like they want to come back.”

Performers this year include Emmylou Harris, k.d. lang, Richard Thompson, Laurie Anderson, the Sheepdogs, Be Good Tanyas, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Matt Andersen and Markus James and Massonrai.

As operations manager, Jaster also oversees all the systems used to run the festival. From online ticket sales, to budgets, to audience relations, to inventory and merchandising and all other control systems. “We’ve implemented a lot of new systems this year, modernized and updated nearly everything, and that positions the festival well going forward,” says Jaster.

Thousands and thousands of hours go into the planning and execution of Vancouver Island MusicFest each year.

For those who come to the festival, it’s three days of great music, meeting friends and making memories. For those who build the festival, it is a labour of love.

• • •

This year, the Vancouver Island MusicFest will enforce its tarp and blanket policy. This information is posted on the VIMF website under Vital Information.

Blankets and tarps: Many of you like to reserve space in front of the mainstage to have prime seats for nighttime shows. However, many of our daytime performers find themselves playing to a sea of empty blankets and those who want to enjoy the show are forced to sit way back in the crowd behind these empty blankets and this can be a real bummer for everyone.

To improve this situation, festival organizers are establishing an area in front of the stage where they respectfully request that no blankets or tarps be left behind. This area will be available for audience members to come and go and enjoy mainstage shows all day long. If you leave your tarp for an hour, VIMF volunteers will fold it up to reduce the amount of space it takes.

For more about the 2012 VIMF, visit http://www.islandmusicfest.com.