Iceberg Alley will mandate masks during 11-day St. John's music festival, says organizer

·3 min read
John Steele is the man behind Brigus Production, which is the company behind the Iceberg Alley Performance Tent music festival in St. John's, which runs from Sept. 8-18, 2021. (Mike Simms/CBC - image credit)
John Steele is the man behind Brigus Production, which is the company behind the Iceberg Alley Performance Tent music festival in St. John's, which runs from Sept. 8-18, 2021. (Mike Simms/CBC - image credit)

The organizer of an upcoming 11-day music festival in St. John's, one that will see up to 2,700 people gathered nightly in a large tent on the shores of Quid Vidi Lake, says concert-goers will be required to wear a mask when they're not eating or drinking.

John Steele of Brigus Production Company says that's a reasonable request, considering how well the province has kept the pandemic at bay.

"We hope that everyone comes down and wears a mask and has a great time," Steele told CBC News during a telephone interview Thursday morning.

The Iceberg Alley Performance Tent music festival will take place Sept. 8-18, returning following a one-year hiatus in 2020 because of the global pandemic.

Zach Goudie/CBC
Zach Goudie/CBC

When he first announced back in July that the festival would proceed this year, Steele spoke about special precautions in order to ensure the risks of transmitting COVID-19 were reduced, but a mandatory face mask policy was not in the cards at the time.

That has changed following the conclusion of the George Street Festival, an outdoor week-long festival that ended on Wednesday.

The George Street Festival made headlines this week after video surfaced showing tightly-packed crowds with few people wearing face masks.

One city leader, Coun. Shawn Skinner, described the images as "a little bit shocking."

In light of the outcry, public health officials recommended to organizers on the final day of the festival that non-medical masks be worn when physical distancing is a challenge.

Photo via Twitter
Photo via Twitter

This prompted the organizers of the George Street Festival to declare late Wednesday afternoon that festival goers "wear masks over their nose and mouth at all times except when actively eating/drinking."

Public health officials confirmed Thursday morning that it had not received any formal complaint about the George Street Festival, and that the festival's operating plan had received approval from provincial authorities.

In order to avoid similar criticism, and ensure the safest possible event, Steele says Iceberg Alley participants will be asked cover their mouth and nose as much as possible.

"When you look at a year ago, we couldn't have any type of event going on ... look at what we're able to do today," he said. "We think we've come a long way in a year and we don't think that's too much to ask."

With more than 70 per cent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians fully vaccinated, no reports of COVID-19 community spread, and participants expected to take appropriate precautions inside a tent that he describes as well-ventilated, Steele believes organizers can manage risks.

Steele said reminders about mask-wearing and proper hygiene and distancing will be prominent during Iceberg Alley, and he noted that security will also be diligent in cases where people refuse to wear masks.

He expects the vast majority of attendees will follow the rules, but, he added, there's only so much that organizers can do.

"These are 19-year-olds and older people. They have to take some responsibility for themselves and for others."

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