There are a “ton of hurdles that need to be jumped over” before a proposed music festival at the Abbotsford Airport comes close to reality.
That’s according to Mayor Bruce Banman.
Banman was responding to the announcement that Abbotsford’s Gary “Sir Johan” Karlsen III – the founder, president, CEO, and Co-Chairman of the Jimi Hendrix Family Foundation – and former Abbotsford Chamber president Sir James Barlow have joined forces in hopes of bringing Elton John, The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney to town.
The proposal is “very much at the infancy stage” said Banman.
“It’s an exciting project to think that the types of names they are bandying about could come and perform here in Abbotsford. It would be a fantastic draw for the entire region. However, having said that, there is a ton of work to be done.”
The festival is still just an idea. No contracts have been signed, no dates have been set and no business plan has been created.
Banman said the organizers have much to consider.
“This is a working airport, we can’t shut down the airport for three days. We don’t shut down the airport for the Abbotsford Airshow and we can’t shut it down for this.”
He added that security issues alone would be quite the task along with providing washrooms for 100,000 people.
He wants to see a business plan, which the organizers have yet to compile.
“Let’s see some contracts,” he said, regarding the proposed lineup of musicians.
“The city is not going to spend one thin dime until we have some ironclad assurances that these gentlemen can do what they say they are going to do.”
Still, Banman said the idea is exciting.
News of the festival idea was made public during the Abbotsford Airshow.
Karlsen invited Jimi Hendrix’s brother, Leon, to come to the Abbotsford Airport to examine the site to see if it would be a suitable location.
“Leon was very impressed,” said Karlsen about the airport tour.
According to Karlsen, the plan is to host a three-day concert, hopefully next year, featuring some of the greatest names in rock history. He said talks have begun with The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Paul McCartney, The Who, Pink Floyd and even the re-formation of Led Zeppelin.
He also wants Robbie Knievel to jump the main stage on his motorcycle and have Leon Hendrix open the event by playing the Star Spangled Banner and O Canada.
Karlsen expects to attract as many as a million fans to the event.
Barlow, who is also optimistic that the festival can become a reality, is taking a more cautious approach to promoting the event.
“I’m regarding my job with this one is to tone down what Sir Johan is talking about. Not that we don’t want it to get as big as he’s saying, because it might do, but it would be inappropriate and incorrect to make the statements that it’s going to be millions of people and every big name you’ve ever heard of,” said Barlow.
However, he did say that discussions with performers have begun.
“We have talked to several big names, and several big names are very interested. We’ve got several contacts put together on support and how to cope with the numbers and we’ve talked provisionally with the city and the airport and police and people like that to make sure nobody is taken by surprise.”
They are also contacting numerous charities to get involved with the event.
The two men are currently working on a business plan.