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'Time out' for Cumberland's big culture fest

The Big Time Out festival in Cumberland, B.C. may be issued a time out this year after city council voted to hold the downtown festival away from city limits fearing a lack of security, a month before the festival is supposed to begin.

Due to security concerns by the RCMP, Cumberland city council unanimously voted to not approve the festival that was slated to be held August 12th and 13th.

Alex Dunae, a festival organizer, says that after 600 emails, phone calls and petitions to Cumberland city council, three of the five councillors decided to call an "emergency" meeting, a week after they had unanimously voted to keep the event out of the downtown area.

"Knowing small town politics up here, that act, the three councillors doing this, is pretty unprecedented. I think everyone was taken aback by how much support the festival has, including us. We were gobsmacked over this. It's been quite a democratic surge of support," Dunae said.

The yearly festival in the village of Cumberland, population 2,762, can attract relatively big crowds to the small downtown -- between 2,000 to 6,000 people.

Some opponents of the council's decision attribute the knee-jerk reaction by police following the recent stabbing of James Denton, who was caught in the crossfire of a knife, trying to break up a fight after the Rhythm on the Rock music festival on July 23.

And of course, there's still the dark cloud looming over B.C. from the Stanley Cup riot.

"It's not whether we want it or not, it's whether we'd be liable. Will we be guilty of negligence if something happens, you know, like Vancouver, not saying that would happen," Councillor Gwyn Sproule said from her home.

Festival organizers say they have an alternative spot for the event if need be, but would rather fight to keep the spot they've had for the last six years.

"The Big Time Out is the number one weekend for all the downtown businesses. This isn't just kids saying you're taking away our party. This is the downtown business core saying what are you doing? This is huge for us, this puts Cumberland on the map," Dunae said.

Carrie Swiggum is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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