CBC Music contributor Alan Ranta was at Entheos Festival this past weekend, where 25-year-old Bradley Dean Ross was killed. Ranta sent us this first-person perspective on what went down as the news filtered through the Entheos community.
Of all the festivals for a violent crime to happen, I never expected it would be Entheos.
This was my third year at the summer solstice festival and conference, and it's always been a super chill event, supported by a very close-knit and active community. I am friends with most of the organizers, the same core group of people who have attended the event over the years, as well as many of the vendors and artists. This year, as always, I met a whole bunch of cool new people, all of who were generous and forthcoming.
I was up until about 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, the night the incident took place, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary; but when I woke up Sunday morning, the festival seemed subdued. I could hear only one of the three stages going in the distance, and it was mellow, which is rare for an event like this. There was the usual hustle and bustle of people brushing their teeth and getting ready for the day, but when I came back from the loo, I overheard someone talking about having heard police sirens. I didn't think much of it at the time. Sirens at any music festival are not uncommon.
Then, around 1 p.m., one of my best friends came along with one of the organizers to where we were camped and told us that a young man had been killed during the night. Shaken, my friend told us that he had been among the first on scene, and had helped clear the way for the paramedics. In the moment, his thoughts, he said, were mostly with the victim's parents, whom he couldn't stop thinking about.
With word starting to get around, the organizers wanted the veterans in the scene to know the facts, to help maintain calm. This had been a very relaxing, peaceful festival up until that point. I hadn't seen any acts of aggression. Throughout the weekend, I only saw people love, laugh and live together. Old friends reunited, strangers played games with each other, dozens of children and dogs ran free. They ate, drank, meditated, learned and celebrated openly yet consciously. They covered themselves in colours, danced in the rain and laughed at lightning. It was beautiful.
Just as my friend was leaving, after having told us what happened, an RCMP helicopter circled the festival and landed in an empty hayfield.
At 2 p.m., there was a mandatory meeting at the Lightship stage. That's when they let us all know what had happened, without many details. They told us the exit procedure, and performed the spiritual closing ceremony for the gathering. We volunteered as healers, breathed in memory of the person who'd passed and held each other. All the organizers, artists, vendors and attendees – a thousand different people – prayed, sang, cried, consoled and mourned together. The same generosity of spirit I saw throughout the festival had its purpose transformed, but retained its significance, under heartbreaking circumstances.
Everyone said their goodbyes and returned to their campgrounds to pack up. All the regular guests were asked to leave that day, while event staff was allowed to stay overnight to tear down the stages. Everyone would have to go through the police check.
Lines of cars merged from several areas throughout the site, but all of the staff and security maintained their calm. The word-of-mouth information system was excellent. People were constantly coming by with updates, letting us know the media was there, that the festival was working with the police, how the checkpoint was moving and so on. Some people just walked up the lines of cars offering hugs. The festival did an amazing job preserving the peace, and making sure people knew support was there if they needed it.
The road check itself was fine. The officer asked how we were doing, took down our licence plate number, phone numbers, verified our driver's licences, asked if we saw anything, checked our trunk and sent us on our way. He was very professional, and even sympathetic. Everyone was trying their best to get through a bad situation.
On the drive home, overwhelmed with gratitude for my safety and the safety of my friends and family, I reflected on how this death was likely the action of just one person. One person caused all of this pain, grief and sadness. But in stark contrast to this dark thought, I realized that if one person can have such a negative impact on a community, there's much good the rest of us can, and do, achieve when we gather together. It works both ways, and this moment showed me how this community is truly together, to its core.
on Jun 29, 2012