Whether Sturgis North Motorcycle Rally and Music Festival will return to Salmon Arm in 2012 is still up in the air.
Ray Sasseville, CEO, and Joan Hansen, vice president of Sturgis North, spoke to the Observer Thursday for the first time since the event began.
The pair say a decision whether to return will be made by their organization in mid-August after they review this year’s event.
“We’ve been offered other communities, other places. They are contacting us about that,” said Sasseville, “We’re going to have to let the dust settle a bit and Aug. 15 is when we need to make a decision, to start selling tickets… We’ve already got requests for tickets from people for next year. We need to make sure everyone’s happy here.”
The pair says wherever the location, the event would not take place at both the fairgrounds and the Neskonlith band’s Gleneden site.
There were low attendance numbers, especially at the fairgrounds site. Beer gardens didn’t come close to capacity and the site was shut down early on a few of the nights due to lack of patrons.
“We will not do that again, that’s unanimous,” said Hansen. “It will be one site only.”
Sasseville says if the event returns he’d like to see it expanded to seven-days long, much like in Daytona Beach or Sturgis, South Dakota.
“Then there’s more time to prepare, more time for vendors to make money, more time for people to plan trips through the Okanagan… People want to come for a week, that’s their holiday.”
As to attendance figures, the Sturgis North organization remains vague.
“We’re still working on it. It’s a complicated process,” said Hansen, who adds they will know more by later next week. They indicate pre-sales of tickets were about 20,000 over the total five days, but that was a mix of five-day, three-day and single-day passes. As the on-site tickets sales were cash, Hansen says the organization is still sorting through till receipts, noting three tills that were previously thought to be missing have been found.
Complaints from some vendors that they did not receive payment for services or meals provided to Sturgis North volunteers are also being straightened out.
Chris Green, Sturgis North’s legal counsel, told the Observer the Sturgis North organization was “administratively overwhelmed” and it became impossible to have all the payments processed by the last day of the event.
“We know there are things we could do a lot better for next time. Administratively it was not what it should have been, indeed it was utter chaos in the office. When we do this again, it will be so much better because we know so much more after running it for the first time.”
The Observer heard numerous complaints from vendors and others who provided services about non-payment. For example, the Shuswap Community Church set up and operated bouncy house inflatables on the fairgrounds for the event. They were promised a $5,500 donation to the church, and say they were given the run-around about the promised payment, leaving the event Sunday empty-handed.
Green told the Observer the church has now received full payment.
Steve Hammer, Sturgis North’s site manager, says he is owed more than $22,000 after putting the cost of rental generators to bring power to the Gleneden site on his own credit card when he was told by members of the Sturgis team there were “zero funds to do that.”
“My beef is I was forced to put up this money so the show would go on and there has been no attempt to get in touch with me to repay me. I am one of the contract employees that was to share in a small percentage of the profit, if this was profitable. But nowhere was it said that I would have to put up cash or my own credit.”
Hammer says no one from the Sturgis organization is responding to his phone calls, e-mail, voice mails or text messages.
“It’s like they have dropped off the earth. They are not responding to any of my questions.”
Both Green and Hansen says the organization has cleared off the majority of accounts owing, and will continue to rectify the situation with a remaining few.
When asked about payment complaints, Hansen defended the management of the Sturgis organization.
“We always go through the proper channels. We are 100 per cent above board, totally transparent and we always use the proper channels.”
Sasseville and Hansen say they do not yet know if the event was profitable, citing the poor weather as a contributing factor in lowering revenues.
“The only negative thing for us was the weather, because of our beer gardens, that’s where you make your profit. It didn’t do well because of the weather, people didn’t come out, then they aren’t going to the vendors, it’s a chain reaction.”