Mateel board ‘disappointed, shocked and saddened’ about Reggae on the River cancellation

Mateel board plans 'to confer and see what to do next'

Reggae on the River 2019 is canceled, High Times and the Mateel said Monday. Tickets are being refunded. (Times-Standard file)
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Members of the Mateel Community Center’s board of directors were scrambling tonight after hearing the annual Reggae on the River festival that’s been held nearly annually was canceled.

“Reggae on the River 2019 has been cancelled,” High Times posted on the Reggae on the River site. “Refunds will be issued to all ticket holders within 10 business days.”

“High Times Productions cancelled the event today,” board treasurer Eryn Snodgrass told the Times-Standard tonight. “The board is meeting tomorrow to confer and see what to do next.”

Board vice president Dusty Hughston also confirmed the cancellation and sent over a statement from the Mateel board tonight.

“The Mateel Community Center is disappointed, shocked and saddened regarding the cancellation of (Reggae on the River) 2019,” the board said. “We are feeling the pain of the community for the loss of local income and much more a tradition. We will continue to pursue all avenues to restore the show. And will undoubtedly have a show at the Mateel the weekend of ROTR. Mateel forever.”

High Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I know this has to be a big blow to the community,” Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell said after hearing the news. “I don’t know enough about the circumstances to add much more. It’s definitely a surprise. I hope that their contract with High Times has some sort of protection in it.”

The Southern Humboldt resident added the permitting for the early August event was already set.

“Reggae has been a big event, especially in the past,” said Fennell. “I know they have been through hard times and I wish them the best in resolving this.”

High Times teamed up with the financially struggling Mateel in 2018 to put on the event. The 2019 edition was being billed as “3 carefree days of reggae, camping, and positive vibes. Brought to you by High Times x Mateel Community Center,” according to the Facebook event page.

Low attendance at the 33rd Reggae on the River in early August 2017, which is traditionally the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Mateel, among other factors including increased expenditures left the Mateel in the red and the future of the community center in question. That spurred the move to join forces with High Times.

Finances were not the only hurdle for the festival. In May, when the full lineup was announced, there was some outcry over the inclusion of Sizzla, a reggae artist who is the frequent subject of controversy for lyrics that advocate violence, including murder, against the LGBTQ community. One day after Sizzla was announced, High Times canceled the scheduled performer.

Benbow resident Noella Calderon, who has attended multiple Reggae on the River festivals in past years, was not surprised to hear of the cancellation tonight.

She said there has been a decline in the shows in recent years. While she attends other shows put on at the Mateel — and wants to support the local community center — she hadn’t decided whether to attend this year’s event yet.

“People used to flock here back in the day,” she said. “Grocery stores didn’t have any food. There were long lines of people. Now, not so much.”

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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