To The Editor,
Hi, my name is Steven Deslauriers, organizer of Vankleek Hill FarmFest — a three-day music festival focusing on Canadian punk, rock, and heavy metal music.
I’m writing a letter to the editor because I strongly believe in preserving Vankleek Hill’s welcoming nature and the live-and-let-live mentality that we are all accustomed to around here.
A lot of you are unaware, but the fairgrounds is managed by a group of people who call themselves the Vankleek Hill Agricultural Society. A little over a month ago the Vankleek Hill Agricultural Society voted to shut down FarmFest permanently. The reasoning I received from them was that friends of their board members said they did not like the event and Vankleek Hill doesn’t approve. Strictly because of “the terrible loud music with foul language.”
This would be understandable if no other events of the sort took place here, but that isn’t the case. There are numerous occasions throughout the year where loud music is being played at the fairgrounds. One of these other events was headlined by a band called “The New Pornographers” in 2019 as well as numerous rap acts who not only use much more swearing in their music than most rock bands but they also proudly use derogatory terms that not a single band at FarmFest would dare to use.
Of course there are people in Vankleek Hill who don’t like heavy metal and rock music. I get that. However I strongly believe that the few should never speak for the many. Vankleek Hill FarmFest is a sanctioned annual event by the Township of Champlain. I have the mayor’s approval, and a letter explaining that FarmFest is an event of municipal significance as well as one of the few events Prescott-Russell chose to advertise as a summer activity.
It may not be apparent to most of the residents in Vankleek Hill, but FarmFest was helping out a lot more people than just myself, besides bringing a weekend of loud music, Juno-nominated bands, a store to buy band merch and a place to camp so no one had to drive drunk. I also hired over 400 local musicians over two years, all from within 150 kilometres of here, three local food vendors, multiple local apparel companies. We bought thousands of dollars of supplies locally, not to mention the extra 500 people from out of town shopping in Vankleek Hill that weekend.
I am lucky enough to have found a new location for 2020. Sadly, we were forced to move out of town to Glen Nevis, Ontario. I do still feel betrayed though and most people in town have no clue this even happened. I tried so hard to bring something different than country music and tractor pulls to Vankleek Hill and I had succeeded. There were never any fights, or vandalism, we never even got a noise complaint fine. I had all of the required permits, insurance etc.. and we always spent a few days afterwards meticulously cleaning every last butch and beer can left by our attendees on the fairgrounds.
Rebranding the name of the event, making new logos, finding a new location and advertising the change of location, is far from cheap. On November 20, 2019, I went to a board meeting and expressed all this to the agricultural society’s board of directors and practically begged them to allow me to do one more year here so I could minimize the potential costs of moving the festival out of town. Sadly, when it comes to a conversation about young people having fun in Vankleek Hill, it’s like talking to a brick wall, and I really think that needs to change!