Sturgis North’s plan to return to the Shuswap is being welcomed by some, spurned by others.
Last week, Joan Hansen, newly appointed president of Sturgis North, and Judy Wilson, chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band, issued a joint news release announcing that Sturgis North and the Neskonlith band will be hosting the 2013 Sturgis North Annual All Make Motorcycle Jamboree and Music Festival.
Hansen told the Observer the event will not be in Salmon Arm but is proposed for Neskonlith land closer to Chase – and will be held in August, not July.
“Our feedback from our patrons was they really wanted to have water. We lost a lot of people to the different lakes,” she said. “We want to have more of a waterfront location. We want people to have fun and not have to leave.”
Wilson was not available for comment. The news release notes that Sturgis North will work with the Neskonlith to help promote cultural awareness and job creation.
In July 2011 the motorcycle rally and music festival was held on two sites – the Salmon Arm Fairgrounds and Neskonlith land in Gleneden.
This past summer, it moved to the MotoPlex Speedway and Event Park in Spallumcheen.
Upon hearing that Sturgis North is planning to return to the Shuswap, some business owners had scathing reviews of Sturgis North’s financial performance.
Among them, Brad Handel, president of Techlectric, says his company is still owed $60,000 from work done in 2011. He wonders how the organization can find money to run the event, but can’t pay their debts.
Hansen, meanwhile, said Sturgis will be meeting with creditors in Salmon Arm within a couple of weeks to talk about payment plans.
She said Sturgis had set up a restructuring company that advised them to pay creditors reduced amounts. She said she doesn’t agree with reductions, even though it will take longer to pay people.
“Even if it takes five years, our plan is to pay off all legitimate debt. There was a lot of illegitimate debt,” she added, contending that Sturgis was over-charged for many services.
“The costs were $2.6 million,” she said of 2011. “This year it was only $700,000. That’s a lot of over-billing. With that in mind, I think we’ll do fine.”
Handel, meanwhile, notes that prices from some companies were high because the services and products for the Salmon Arm event were requested at the last minute instead of months in advance.
Handel says he won’t be convinced his company will get its money until it’s firmly in his possession.
“I’m pretty sure I know how the meeting’s going to go – some promises, trying to show some good faith…”
Sue Renaud of Lakeside Printing was not paid for her company’s work for the event in 2011. In hopes of recouping some funds, her company did more work for Sturgis for the event in Spallumcheen.
“We thought, ‘we can help them.’ Then you get shot in the foot again.”
She explains her company was given a post-dated cheque prior to doing the work that was eventually returned, NSF or ‘not sufficient funds.’
Although she declined to say how much her company is owed, she said it’s a “substantial amount.”
Hansen says the event hasn’t made money yet, but says similar events don’t for the first four years. She pointed to the Merritt music festival and the Live Nation festival in Squamish.
“It’ll take a couple of years; it’s not going to happen overnight. We’re not going to aim for a huge festival – we’re going to shorten the days and bring the prices down.”
The motoplex in Spallumcheen was told of Sturgis’ plans to move.
“They contacted me about the press release and let me know,” said Bob Newcombe, motoplex manager. “We’re more of a family entertainment thing out here at the racetrack. It’s not a big deal to us.”
Newcombe said the five-day festival in mid-July was a success at his facility, despite some issues.
“The weather worked against them for a couple of the days,” he said. “And the heavy RCMP presence deterred a lot of people from coming out. People were getting stopped at roadblocks from every-which angle coming out here.”
Newcombe said the motoplex and Sturgis North were on good terms when the festival ended.
“It was a tough decision (to move),” said Hansen. “The motoplex is a great venue. There are still going to be some events at the motoplex.”
That, however, was news to Newcombe.
“Nobody has formally asked me about next year,” he said. “I’m not saying we wouldn’t be open to hosting an event.”
Hansen said former Sturgis president Ray Sasseville, is no longer involved.
“He’s pursuing his music and writing a book,” she said, explaining that he is working on a recording label for up-and-coming artists.
The Township of Spallumcheen was surprised to hear of the Sturgis North decision to return to the Shuswap.
“We wish the Neskonlith Indian Band all the best,” said Coun. Joe Van Tienhoven. “We felt that for the work council did and all the work that the motoplex did, it (the festival) wasn’t very much of a benefit to the residents of Spallumcheen. It was a cost to us, not a benefit.”
Van Tienhoven said the costs had to do with the amount of staff time that went into facilitating meetings with event officials and community stakeholders.
Renee ‘Belt Drive Betty’ Charbonneau, editor of the Busted Knuckle Chronicles, a publication for the biker community, says she attended the event in Spallumcheen and has spoken to people involved with the Salmon Arm event.
“I don’t believe it’s good for the biker community, I don’t think it’s good for the charities who’ve hung their hopes on this and I don’t think it’s good for business…,” she said, noting she doesn’t want to see anyone else lose money.