Sturgis close to wheeling into speedway
Motorcycles and music are slated to converge in Spallumcheen this summer.
The Sturgis North Music Festival and Motorcycle Rally, held last year for the first time in Salmon Arm, is planning to move to the MotoPlex Speedway and Event Park July 18-22.
Sturgis North president Ray Sasseville confirmed the planned move Monday after comments about the event shifting to the North Okanagan appeared on its Facebook page.
“Everything will be held at the speedway,” said Sasseville, whose event features classic rock acts and a motorcycle trade show and business exposition.
“Vernon, Armstrong and Falkland are going to be co-hosts by default because people will fill their towns up and spend their money there.”
Speedway spokesperson Bob Newcombe said Tuesday, however, that talks have not concluded.
“We are in negotiations, for sure, and have been for a little bit here,” said Newcombe. “Everything’s moving along fine. We’ve come to terms, just waiting for lawyers on both sides to do some paperwork and then we’ll have a look at it.”
Last year’s festival was held on Neskonlith band land outside of Salmon Arm, and the Salmon Arm Fair Grounds, and drew an estimated crowd of close to 40,000 for the entire festival.
Part of the reason for wanting to leave the Shuswap for the North Okanagan, said Sasseville, is the speedway offers everything organizers need, including 30-to-40 acres of camping space.
“The No. 1 biggest complaint I had in Salmon Arm was having the festival in two locations,” he said. “I needed to find something big enough for one location.”
The other reason for the move, he said, was to make money.
Hosting the festival on the Neskonlith land didn’t make any money as Sasseville said his company had to bring in everything from generators, tents, diesel fuel and bus shuttles, as well as buy fencing.
“I just had 40 acres of dirt,” he said. “There was nothing on it at all. The speedway has power, with power I don’t need generators or diesel fuel. They have infrastructure, they have seating for 7,500-to-10,000 people.”
The inaugural festival lost an estimated $400,000, and Sasseville said the only way to turn the loss into a profit, and be able to pay his creditors from last year, is to put on a successful show.
The only way he can do that, he said, is to have a property that offers him the infrastructure to save money right off the bat, hence the possible move to the speedway.
“We’re hoping everybody is happy about that because we’re making an attempt to make things right,” said Sasseville about the first-year losses. “We want people to know that, yes, we are going to take care of this.”
That debt is something Newcombe doesn’t want to see happen in this region.
“That’s one of the things we wanted to address,” said Newcombe.
“We’ve gone through their business plan for 2012 and they do show they’re going to recoup and pay back some of that debt from 2011. It might take a couple of years.
“They’re not running from it. They are making an attempt.”
Sturgis North also plans to organize day events in Vernon, Armstrong and Falkland to coincide with charity rides, where motorcyclists raise money for organizations such as the Canadian Cancer Society and veterans’ charities.
Spallumcheen Mayor Janice Brown said Tuesday that nothing official about the festival has been put in front of council.
“If we hear for sure it’s a go, we’ll put it on the agenda so we can talk about it, and see if we can somehow benefit from it by doing something or finding out more about it,” said Brown.