Opinion Editorial

Save Oro should save its rhetoric

By Dave Dawson, Orillia Packet & Times

(Postmedia Network)

(Postmedia Network)

The night before the WayHome Music and Arts Festival, Save Oro, a vocal, well-organized grassroots residents group opposed to mega-concerts at Burl's Creek, issued a last-minute missive to local media quoting Paul Sanderson, a Hawkestone microbiologist worried about the medical plan for the event.

Save Oro conceded the information had not been verified, but stated, "the concerns raised are so potentially serious and important that we wanted to get it out to you right away." In the letter circulated by the group, Sanderson warned the deficiencies in the Burl's Creek medical plan are so serious, "fatalities will occur" at the WayHome festival.

July 13, Save Oro circulated a press release predicting "waits as long as seven hours and eight- to 13-kilometre traffic jams on Highway 11 during multi-day mega-concerts" and called the expected chaos "an unacceptable disruption to Highway 11 and local roads."

And Monday, after what was almost universally hailed as a grand slam, Save Oro was at it again: "WayHome has been declared a rousing success by the promoter -- who refused to rein in musicians playing at deafening volumes and spewing foul language -- and tens of thousands of fans who have now packed up and left locals with the fallout. But for thousands of residents who now find themselves suffering from WayHome hangover, the multi-day mega-concert was a mega-fiasco."

Save Oro has lost the sun on this issue and, in the process, it has lost credibility. The chaos it predicted did not materialize. Travellers on Highway 11 would barely have noticed the event, such was the degree of organization.

The 35,000 concert goers enjoyed acts that ranged from Canadian icon Neil Young to rapper Kendrick Lamar, from up-and-coming bands like Hozier to Grammy-winning Sam Smith to various other stars that played in what many are now calling a world-class venue.

Reviews from concert goers have been positive. They praised the clean showers, the organized camping, the menu of food choices, the lineup, the incorporation of art, the concert stages and the venue.

A handful of neighbours have said they were miffed by the volume of the performances -- which did not end until 2 a.m. -- and the profanity that is now the reality in pop lyrics. But even those complaints sound like whispers amid the crush of accolades for a festival that surpassed expectations.

The organizers are to be applauded for setting the bar high; Save Oro is also to be congratulated for pushing them to take residents' concerns seriously. And while no one can predict the future -- Boots and Hearts is coming up in 10 days and will attract about 10,000 more people to Burl's Creek -- it is time for Save Oro to tone down the rhetoric. The group has inundated the media with inflammatory statements, used its platform to predict fatalities, to portend traffic chaos and even called on Neil Young to donate his performance fee to help preserve farmland.

Who do they think they are? Today, they seem a lot like the boy who cried wolf. If they continue in this vein, their already fragile credibility will be shattered completely.

david.dawson@sunmedia.ca

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