Mixed reaction as 2nd Cavendish summer music festival gets the go-ahead

The Sommo Festival — scheduled for the weekend after the Cavendish Beach Music Festival (seen in this photo) — is being billed as a rock music and food festival.  (Cavendish Beach Music Festival - image credit)
The Sommo Festival — scheduled for the weekend after the Cavendish Beach Music Festival (seen in this photo) — is being billed as a rock music and food festival. (Cavendish Beach Music Festival - image credit)

Some Cavendish-area business owners say they're unhappy the resort municipality council has approved a major new music festival after originally denying it. But Whitecap Entertainment says the Sommo Festival will be an economic driver.

The council held a special meeting Wednesday evening and reversed a decision from earlier in the week.

That means the Sommo Festival will go ahead July 14-15, one week after the Cavendish Beach Music Festival (CBMF).

Phyllis Carr of Carr's Oyster Bar in Stanley Bridge said she wishes the new concert would be held at the end of June.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

"We could kick off summer with a great concert, tie it all in with our shellfish in the area, lobster season still on. We could make this a huge food festival event around what the north shore actually does," she said.

Cavendish Maples Cottages owner Tyson MacInnis said he's "extremely shocked" and disappointed.

"Firstly to revote when they had already voted on this matter. And then to change their decision.... Secondly, the proposed concert is counter to the council special event guidelines that's meant to protect the family market that's so important to our business and most in the region and the community," he said.

"We know concert-goers and families don't mix. Our experience is extremely clear on this," he said.

"It's a disaster to try to have them combined.... So I have no idea why councillors that are representatives of our community would go against the overwhelming community feedback against the concert."

Tracy Lightfoot/CBC
Tracy Lightfoot/CBC

The resort municipality's bylaws say preference for new major festivals should be given to those outside peak season.

MacInnis said in mid-July his cottage operation is already operating at 100 per cent.

"We have families that have come back and stayed with us for more than 20 years in a row," he said.

"We've already had guests that are booked for us for one-week stays and longer who have phoned us and told us they've heard about this potential concert and said they're going to cancel their bookings if they proceed," he said.

Whitecap Entertainment CEO Ben Murphy said they were very happy with the outcome of the special meeting.

"I think we heard loud and clear this year that the community wants another event, but the date is problematic, so we'll be working with the municipality and the residents over the next 12 months to find a more appropriate date for everyone," Murphy said.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Council decided on Wednesday the new festival will get a permit for one year and have to reapply in the future, which also happens with CBMF each year.

Murphy said they are open to changing the date of the Sommo Festival.

"I think we'll have some discussion after this year of what it is and where it fits best. But you know, our goal this year was always to get a second festival off the ground in Cavendish. It's been 14 years. We think the site is underutilized and it's difficult to get a music festival off the ground. So we're happy to be able to do so, and it's easier to move a festival that exists."

Kevin Baillie
Kevin Baillie

Murphy said the festivals will be an economic driver for P.E.I.

"I think they will bring lots of people across the bridges, obviously heads in beds, spending money at restaurants, gas stations all over. And obviously our direct suppliers," he said.

"We'd have 1,000 people working in the festival with different companies providing income to them and creating jobs in the summer for them is also very important to us."

The mayor of the Cavendish area resort municipality said the special meeting was held because there was confusion after the first meeting.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

Matthew Jelley said there's been a lot of pressure on councillors, but "everyone was committed to getting the vote correct and what their intentions were. And everyone left feeling that way last night."

"We're in a lot better place than we were 12,14 years ago where we know some of the issues that we have to anticipate and deal with and we've had a couple months here to prepare for this possibility," said Jelley.

"I think now the focus is on the promoter to do the best job they can and I think the community to continue to figure out how we can continue to host great events in the community."

Whitecap Entertainment said it will be releasing information about who will be performing at the Sommo Festival as well as ticket information on Friday.