Why an Interview,,,

Over the years we have been able to meet and talk with some very interesting people. They have shared with us their knowledge and have provided us with a great deal of insight as to how and why festivals and events work and why they are so important to our communities and to the Province of Ontario. With this in mind, we decided that we wanted you to meet and hear from some of the wonderful people who work so hard to provide us all with such wonderful Ontario Festivals and Events! We are pleased and proud to present "THE INSIDE SCOOP"!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Vendors Talk…

A while ago Gary and I had dinner with friends of ours. They were in town (Cobourg) to attend the Cobourg Highland Games as vendors. During our meal the conversation naturally turned to festivals and how they treat their vendors. Our friends commented on how differently each event treats their vendors. Some treat vendors as partners, while others treat them as a necessary evil! As a vendor I certainly know which festivals I would be selling my merchandise at! I believe that if a festival or event is going to have merchants as part of the event, they should attract the very best and then treat them like gold! They are the ones who pay the booth fees and attract the crowds to the events! For many festivals they are the main attraction! Festival organizers should realize that the better the quality of vendors they have at their event, the more people they will attract. It’s a big circle! Good vendors attract good attendees. Great vendors attract great and more attendees! Ones who will be willing to spend money! The more people spend, the more vendors earn. The more the vendors earn, the more an event can charge them. Successful vendors are willing to pay “fair” booth fees. More money to go back into the community! And remember, attendees and vendors TALK! Attendees tell their friends and their friends tell their friends! It’s called the “rippling effect”. Bad news travels fast! As for vendors, they also talk. Vendors love to network. This may come as a surprise to some festival organizers, but vendors, especially the more experienced ones, talk to one another regularly! They know which festivals are the best to attend for sales. They know which festivals treat their vendors well and who treat them poorly! Any festival that wants to become and stay successful should be acutely aware of these realities and plan their festivals accordingly! Here are vendor friendly five tips:
1.    Provide a “booth sitting” service
2.    Provide vendor only washrooms and a clean-up area
3.    Provide “food delivery” service
4.    Have a rest area for vendors and their staff where they can relax and snooze in peace
5.    Provide vendor only parking areas

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


A few years ago I was reading an article in a US newspaper that had bold headlines reading “Festivals across US downsize or cancel because of economy “. The reasons given were the reduction or elimination of sponsorship dollars, higher costs and fewer attendees. Both corporations and attendees are feeling the economic pinch, falling sales for corporations and higher gasoline costs for attendees. For many people the cost of getting there is just becoming too expensive. With costs increasing for festivals, organizers have to take a much closer look at their budgets and profitability. Even though many festivals are organized and managed by non-profit organizations, excess monies are usually invested back into organization’s community. Members of the organization usually throw themselves into a festival project because of the charitable factor. Without profits, many groups are now re-evaluating their role. Some, as the newspaper article says, are downsizing while others are simply canceling. Rather than “throwing in the towel” and giving up, these groups should re-evaluate themselves and find innovative ways to grow and prosper. For me, this doesn’t mean increasing the admission costs or the booth fees. It means taking an honest comprehensive look at all aspects and then coming up with responsible solutions. The first few years may not produce high profits, but hard work, time and intelligent perseverance will. Remember everything is cyclical and the economy will bounce back, but if you leave the game or diminish your product (festival) everyone will lose! Festivals are an intricate and vital part of every community! What your group does now and how it responds to the challenges of today WILL affect tomorrow.
Even though this article was written a while ago, I believe that the same premise exists today. I hate when I hear about an event being cancelled. Events can be the backbone of a community. They can attract new visitors, new businesses and new residents. They also can help create community pride.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


I was watching “Speed TV” a week ago and “Dave Despain” was interviewing the new president of USCA (United States Auto Club). Despain asked the new president how he was going to improve USAC. His reply was simple. They were going to have to change, to appeal to more people, to appeal to different demographic groups. 

This interview started me thinking about festivals and events. I remembered a conversation that I was part of. It happened a few years ago. We were talking about the future direction of a major festival. One of the principal organizers thought for a moment about the direction of his portion of the festival and then said, “You know, we’ve been pretty successful over the years, I don’t see any need for change.” In his mind this was absolutely true. His portion of the festival is still going, but, in my mind, it seems to be losing the vitality it had a number of years ago. 

I wonder of how many other festival and event organizers refuse to consider change as part of the management process? I believe too many! I worked in the wildlife conservation banquet business for over 20 years. Most banquets are still using the same fundraising formula that was used when I entered the business! Today’s banquet proceeds and attendance is considerably down. I am not advocating that change has to be done on a wholesale basis. I think that evaluation of your event regularly and then comparing it to today’s realities is important and necessary! Looking into the future and planning for it is just smart business! Consider all the corporations that no longer exist because they couldn’t accept change and embrace it!
There is a major, very successful event in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, the K-W Oktoberfest. I was at a conference where the Executive Director talked about his festival and how they developed a new 5-year plan. He told us that they did this re-evaluation regularly and that they were in the process of revamping their volunteer program. It wasn’t because their program and volunteers were bad; actually it was quite the contrary. Their volunteer program was second to none! It is just that they wanted to offer their patrons and visitors a Disney-like experience. To accomplish this, it meant re-educating and re-focusing their volunteers. A huge task, but well worth it!
Festivals and events are a major part of all our communities and far too important to wither up and die!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Washroom Facilities…

Why do washroom facilities for a lot of festivals and events seem to be an afterthought? It is very disappointing to find poorly placed and badly maintained and equipped facilities! It is almost as though event organizers are embarrassed that they have to provide washroom facilities! They place them in out of the way locations, not taking into consideration those who need them the most. It’s like they don’t want the washroom facilities to interfere with the rest of the festival!

I have been told that Disney Parks place a great deal of attention to their facilities. Only senior trained staff is allowed to maintain their facilities. They realize that clean washroom well stocked washroom facilities reflect their entire operation! So, if it such a high priority to Disney, why isn’t it important to most Ontario festival and event organizers? This is such an easy way to win the hearts and loyalty of the patrons!

The following is a list of my top washroom facilities “pet peeves”:
  1. Poorly located facilities, especially for visitors who need to use the facilities frequently
  2. Too few washrooms for the size of the event
  3. Lack of or no disabled facilities
  4. Unclean and poorly maintained facilities
  5. No wash-up stations
  6. Poorly stocked facilities (toilet paper, water, towels, soap, etc.)
Organizers should make sure they inspect the washroom facilities that they are renting to ensure that they are good quality and reflect the quality of the event. They should also insist on frequent clean out, even if it costs a little more. Finally organizers should ask for references and check them out. Remember these washroom facilities are an intricate part of your festivals reputation.

Having washroom high on your priority list will pay big dividends. If it works for Disney, it will work for you. Your visitors will appreciate your efforts!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

My Grandson…

A while ago I had the opportunity to speak with a gentleman about an antique boat cruise company he operated. The conversation turned from boats to events. He was telling me about a new classic boat and car show that taking place this August in Rosseau. He had read our article about the Antique and Classic Boat Show held in Gravenhurst and that Gary had attended it with his Grandson. He suggested that the new show would be great for my Grandson. This started me thinking about the “kid” friendly shows I had visited and that I would visit in the future. There is something wonderful about festivals and events that can cater to both adults and children alike and do it well. Obviously a lot has to do with age of the children (and, perhaps adults) but to be able to capture both takes a lot of thought and planning! Some attractions do it naturally, like the Toronto Zoo. Others have traditions where the two come together, such as the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) or the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, but the planned combination festivals are truly special! I think one of the best events that we have attended for this combination is the Mississauga Waterfront Festival (2007). Its activities offered a wide range for all visitors. For the children, the Kid’s Stage feature Barney and Friends plus a cast of other children entertainers. For adults, there was an Ojibway Storyteller, Native Dancers and Chinese Arts performers. Their greatest achievement, however, was in combining activities that appealed to both groups. These activities included the McCann Super Dogs, the West Coast Lumberjack Show, the Jet Ski Stunt Show and the Skyriders Trampoline Show. I believe that most festivals should be for the whole family to enjoy. Festivals that accomplish this well will win the festival visitor “sweepstakes”!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Pack Your Own Lunch?

The more festivals and events that Gary and I attend, the more we feel that the food offered is neither good value nor nutritional! It makes you wonder if we should be packing our own lunch. I am not sure why so many festivals allow high priced, poor quality food to be offered at their events. Since food plays such a major role in the festival experience, it would seem to me that smart festival organizers would start to reconsider the types of food offered and how and where it’s presented. This is especially true for larger events that allow food vendors set up shop and then charge ridiculously high prices. As I have mentioned in a previous blog, I believe that festival visitors will become more and more discerning about the festivals and events they visit as gas and food prices increase. Although it’s difficult for festival organizers to dictate what food vendors can charge and what ingredients they use, they can be very selective on whom they choose as a vendor by asking hard questions and only contracting with the very best. Good value, healthy ingredients and a good selection of foods will win the hearts of their visitors. A further thought for festival organizers is that they should be offering food areas for their visitors. There is nothing worst then trying to juggle food, drinks and other packages while trying to eat food. Festival organizers should include in their planning a convenient food court with plenty of seating and lots of shade. I feel that festivals organizers who go that “extra mile” will be richly rewarded for their efforts!

Saturday, February 3, 2018


Some time ago, we attended an event that was confusing! It’s not that the event didn’t have a purpose and a theme, it did. The event was a race of sorts and celebrated a disaster in the town’s past. The confusion for me was simple, was the event held for race participants or was it for the race visitors? In this case, the event was heavily geared towards the race participants. There is nothing wrong with this. It’s up to the event organizers to make their choices. However, I think that they and the town are missing a great opportunity to promote the town, its amenities and its merchants! With just a little more effort this event could become one of the biggest attractions in the area. Don’t get me wrong, the event already attracts a good crowd, especially if the weather is good, but it could do better, much better! This may not be what the race organizers want, but it may be what the town needs. If the race organizers don’t want to spearhead an expanded event, why not make the race and event within a larger event or festival! An overall festival committee could be formed and its members could develop plans to expand and complement the existing event. Expanding on an already successful event just makes good sense! The race already attracts a good number of out-of-town visitors. Why not give the more to do and see? Why not give them greater opportunities to spend money and help downtown merchants? It makes me wonder how many other communities are in the same position. Right now, I believe, a great number of opportunities are being lost!