London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
The annual Rock the Park fundraiser has raised more than $1.2 million over the past eight years in the fight against metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD).
Although it has attracted a loyal audience of classic and hard rock fans, Rock the Park has also created detractors who have repeatedly battled against what they call the excessive noise levels generated by the festival. This year’s event, which includes rock superstars Slash, Bush, Steve Miller Band, George Thorogood and Boston, will take place July 26-28.
And although people should be focused on what promoter Brad Jones calls a very strong lineup and the money the festival raises for Bethanys Hope Foundation, attention has been swayed once again to the debate over how loud a rock concert should be.
“We are thrilled about this year. We are already 20 per cent higher in sales this year. We feel we have the right bands. We are about fun and value,” said Jones, who is president of Jones Entertainment Group. “When people come down, the best label I ever heard about Rock the Park is it’s the biggest backyard barbecue. That’s great and that’s what the focus should be on.”
The noise debate was once again brought into focus when council made adjustments to the amplified sounds and special events bylaws that would help events such as Sunfest and the Home County Music and Art Festival. However, those adjustments, including five grace periods per performance over the 90-decibel sound limit, did nothing to support what members of the public, and council, have called “that other festival.”
Although it didn’t take a master code breaker for people to know “that other festival” was really Rock the Park, Jones said he took issue with how members of the public gallery, and some councillors, referred to the festival.
“What upset me the most, what was unfair, was when they are referred to those Bethanys people. That is not fair,” Jones said. “Bethany was a beautiful young girl who lost her life. For the naysayers crying the blues about us being too loud, they can be mad at the festival, but don’t be disrespectful of what Dave and Lindey do.”
Dave McIntyre, and his wife Lindey, created the foundation to first support, and then honour the memory of, their daughter Bethany who would eventually die from MLD at just seven years old.
During council’s bylaw discussions, McIntyre made a presentation requesting an exemption for Rock the Park from the amplified sounds bylaw. That exception, similar to what events in Sarnia and Ottawa have, would have been important as McIntyre said Rock the Park will always lose its $500 deposit for exceeding the amplified sounds bylaw.
“We are never going to be 90 decibels, it’s never going to happen. It sounds callous or like I am trying to be a smartass, but it is impossible to be there with a rock concert,” McIntyre said. “We have had other people, technologists, not speaking on our behalf, who have come out and said that at minimum it should be 105. We don’t want to stay at 105 decibels anymore than we want to be there after 11 p.m.”
From his perspective as the long-time promoter for Rock the Park, Jones said he wasn’t surprised by the council’s lack of support for the festival’s point of view.
“It bothers me, but it doesn’t surprise me that we didn’t get the exemption. Were we left out in the dark? One hundred per cent. But it is what it is,” Jones said. “We believe strongly we are doing the right thing. All the hotels are stuffed, sold out already. The restaurants and bars are excited. And we will again be raising money for a great cause.”
The festival, McIntyre said, typically generates between $200,000 and $250,000 for MLD research. Rock the Park is the chief fundraiser for the foundation, the money from which supports the leukodystrophy research by Dr. Tony Rupar at Western University.
As an event driven organization, along with its charity golf tournament, McIntyre said Bethanys Hope has only so many options for its fundraising
“I have no other idea on how we can raise $250,000. You can’t do it in a phone campaign or a mail out. We don’t go door-to-door. The house lotteries, we have already done that, and those are so high risk now,” McIntyre said. “If I could get 200,000 people to give me a loonie, I would stay home. If anyone has another idea, I’m all ears.”
But in the meantime, Jones said he will continue on bringing the best festival possible to the 30,000 people who turn out in Harris Park each year to see and hear their favourite rockstars.
“We don’t pretend to be the biggest and the best, but we give great value and it is a lot of fun. The reality is that we have a great family atmosphere. We bring the best in staging, lighting, stagehands. These guys are pros,” Jones said. “Harris Park is a beautiful place. When the sun is shining, there isn’t a better place to be.”
For a full lineup and more information on Rock the Park, visit www.rockthepark.ca. For more information on Bethanys Hope Foundation, visit www.bethanyshope.org.
Find us on Facebook: London Community News