Complaints of overcrowding and lack of water

Ontario woman considering lawsuit after Salmon Fest

Evan Careen
Published on July 15, 2013

Centennial Park was packed and temperatures soared at the 2013 Toyota Salmon Festival.

Evan Careen/The Advertiser

Salmon Festival is over for another year and some people were not happy with their experience. Debbie Dwight came down from Ontario to take in the concert and has created a twitter account, Salmonfestfail, about her time in Grand Falls-Windsor.

She had a number of issues with the concert and said she is currently polling other people in the VIP section to possibly bring forward a class action lawsuit. One of the issues is over the amount of tickets sold for the VIP section.

She said she bought the tickets for the VIP section with the understanding there were 2500 sold. She figures there were about 10,000 people in that section.

"I later heard reports of 7,500 people in the area and that was certainly not what I was told or expected," she told the Advertiser. "It was awful. I was never afraid for my safety in 55 years before this and I attend concerts every month in the U.S. and Canada."

Dwight said she showed up early in the day with a lawn chair because she was told when she purchased the tickets there would be enough room. As the day wore on it became apparent this was not the case.

"We were told by other people to get out of our chairs, that chairs don't belong at concerts," she said. "People were pushing us, yelling at us, it was horrible."

She said she decided to go with the VIP tickets because she is claustrophobic and cannot handle being pressed in by large crowds.

At times throughout the day water became unavailable in the VIP sections and Dwight and a number of people other have commented on it so far with concerns.

"At 4 p.m. I went to get water and there was none," she said " The solution was to hose us down with water from a hose for an hour, to pummel us with water."

She said she understands the organizers want to make money but she felt it was too poorly organized and there were not enough vendors.

A number of people have commented on Dwight's twitter account and one of those was traceyforsey152, who said "@Salmonfestfail I was completely overwhelmed with the crowds and lack of water. My husband took me outside the VIP to get water. It was sad."

The Advertiser also received a number of comments regarding the concert on its website. Brenda Collins of Conception Bay South,  said "I spent over a thousand dollars in the Grand Falls area this past weekend to support your local economy. It won't happen next year and I hope other people will do the same thing and then maybe your town and organizers will get the message. I too will be going out of province to see performers like the Eagles. Grand Falls Windsor and the organizers showed no regard for people's heath and safety Saturday with the lack of water, overcrowding and disgusting food that cost way too much. The most frustrating thing is there seems to be no one accountable for the GREED and the concerns of the people at the concert on Saturday. Like I said my money will be spent elsewhere, which is really a shame. Hit you where it really hurts the most in the pocket book."

Dwight also said she saw people being carried out on stretchers as the day wore on and it seems paramedics also had issues getting through the crowd.

Dr. Jared Butler was a volunteer at the event and one of the coordinators of the medical tent and paramedics.

"There were challenges getting people to the medical tent quickly," he said. "Nothing that was unsafe, I want to stress that, but it did take longer to get through than we would have liked."

Butler said the staff and the RCMP were very helpful getting them through the crowd. He also said this was the busiest year he's seen.

"I've been doing this now since KISS came and this year was certainly busier," he said "If you count all the people who needed bandaids or just a cold cloth I would estimate we helped about 100 people."

Calls to the Town were not returned by press time. Monday was a civic holiday in the Town of Grand Falls.

The Advertiser did manage to reach Jack Livingston with SRO entertainment, the promoter of the event. Livingston said he would not be available until later in the week to provide information on the  numbers of tickets sold, both in VIP and the regular section. When asked about the complaints he said he would not be able to answer until later in the week but did have this to say: "If the people would have moved liked we asked we wouldn't have had these problems."

Dwight is now en route back to her home in Ontario and said the experience ruined her view of the province.

"People always told me the Newfoundland is such a beautiful place with such nice people," she said "We saw the worst of Newfoundland."