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, December 12, 2018

What Are They Thinking?


Sometimes you read an article and it really makes you wonder! That’s what happened to me when I read an article about a community stopping funding for upcoming events. I don’t know the whole story, but if it true, I think that it is a big mistake! Festivals and events are the backbone of any community. Making it harder for festivals to grow and prosper is “wrong” thinking. Consider, for a moment, what festivals and events mean to a community. First of all, they bring a community together. They give the community and its residents as sense of pride and purpose, a sense of community. They make residents want to reside in their community much longer and to give back to it! Successful, well-funded festivals bring new visitors into the community. If people are enjoying themselves, they will spend money, sometimes, lots of it. They go to restaurants, stay overnight in hotels and shop in local retail stores. If they really have enjoyed themselves, they might even want to move to the community and be part of it. Additionally, some visitors may feel that the community is a good place to invest their money! Some might want to relocate their business to the community. Anything is possible! All this means more wealth for the community and more taxes to the government. With healthy festivals and events, everyone wins! I hope that the community’s politicians and staff take a deep breath and reconsider their actions. The heath of their community depends on them doing the “right thing”!
Other communities who are considering similar actions should take note! This is not the time to cut back! It’s time to step forward and be bold. It’s time to make your community the best that it can be!


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Building Your Website – Simplicity and Website Layout


                  9. Simplicity
     The best advice I can give when building your website can be summed up in one word, “simplicity”. If you want people to visit your website and then stay, simplicity is the answer! Let me explain. Search engine crawlers and very particular! They like simple things. They don’t like “flash”. They don’t like “digging too deep” into a website. They want a clear, simple path to find all that your website is offering. If you make it too difficult for them, you will loose your chances of high rankings. So what you might say! Well, without high search engine rankings, people will have a difficult time finding you. Of course, if you only want your friends to visit your website, you don’t have to worry. However, if you want new people to find you, search engines and their rankings are very important! The other reason for simplicity is that people, like search engine crawlers, don’t like complicated! If you make your website too complex, people will quickly become turned off and will leave your website quickly to find something simpler! If your object is to have people visit your site, stay for a while and then buy your products or services, keep it simple!

10. Website Layout
Like “Simplicity”, Website Layout is very important. This is true for many of the same reasons stated above. You need a nice clean layout that allows visitors (human and electronic) to easily travel around your website. Well-marked page links, concise text and descriptive photos all make for a better site. Having accurate, uncomplicated information on your entry page (normally your “Home” page) gives your visitors a clear picture of who you are. Giving visitors the ability to easily look through your website will keep them on it for a longer time. If you are selling products or services, having well written descriptive text is imperative.  Easy to follow instructions on how to make a purchase will help you make more sales. Always remember, when building your website, it is for the benefit of your customers, not a monument for you and your web designer





Thursday, November 8, 2018

Building Your Website – Page Content and Site Updating


5.    Web Page Content
As search engines become more sophisticated, web page content becomes more important. Content should be written in an interesting informative way. It should relate to your website and its purpose. One way of relating is it is by using your keywords and key phrases, but not too often. According to Mike Small, a veteran SEO specialist, the rule of thumb is not to mention your keywords more than 4 times per page and to split them equally between paragraphs. Two mentions of your most important keyword in the first section is the only exception. He goes on to say that there should be between 150 and 250 words of text per keyword. Finally, he says to mention each keyword towards the end of the page. This shows overall consistency and topic authenticity.

Keeping your visitors interested in your website and having them stay on it for several minutes will help increase your site’s search engine rankings.

6.    Website Updating
Another way of promoting your website is to update your pages frequently. Adding pages can also helpful. The pages must be added for a meaningful purpose, not just for search engine show. Keeping you website up-to-date and accurate shows search engines that your website has substance and is important to its visitors! Besides, it you don’t keep your contents up-to-date all the time, why would people want to visit your site more then a few times, even if you have an interesting site? I think the key to having a great site is to put you as being one of its visitors. What would you like to see as a visitor? How often would you go onto your site if you were a visitor and why? Answering these questions will help you think about your site more often and will help you manage it better! Remember the old saying “Treat others as you would have them treat you”. If you and your site “treat” visitors well, your website will be a great hit!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Building Your Website - The Importance of Text


5.    Use of Keywords in Text
Just as the selection of keywords is important, making sure that they are seen and found is also important! In order to optimize your keywords, they need to be mentioned several times throughout your text. However, their placement must make sense. As I have previously said, search engines are becoming much more sophisticated each day and can tell when a site is trying to fool them into giving a higher ranking then is deserved. They don’t take kindly to this and can penalize. The penalization may or may not be warranted, but regaining ranking is a Herculean task. Assuming you are creating a legitimate website, let your information and expertise be your “Calling Card”. Ultimately this strategy will become the benchmark for website ranking.
6.    Highlighting Text
As it stands right now, web crawlers are sent out by search engines to find keywords. Just including the keywords in your text will help, but won’t make them outstanding. Highlighting keywords (bold, underlined and italicized) will really help. Remember, though, this is how it works now, but likely, not in the future. You need to either keep up with internet technology yourself or find someone you trust to do it for you. Like the Boy Scout motto says, “Be Prepared”!


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Building Your Website – Meta Elements (Continued…)


1.    Meta Tags and Descriptions
In my previous articles I mentioned the importance of keywords. Keywords act as your 24/7 electronic “Business Card”. They are part of what search engine crawlers are looking for. Because they are important, it is imperative that you and your website designer consider them carefully. Keywords can either be a single word or a “string” of words. They need to reflect what people, who are looking for your kind of website, will type into the search engine for their “search”. The more specific your keywords, the more qualified the visitors to your site. Well thought out keywords can also increase your chances of being on the front page of search engines. When you are thinking of what your keywords should be, think what you would type in to find your kind of product or service. In other words, become the visitor!
2.    Meta Description
The Meta description describes and defines what your website is all about. The description has to been short and concise and, most important of all, it has to be accurate. Although Meta descriptions don’t affect your search engine ranking, they do help categories your website, especially with human searchers. They tell the searcher what to expect in your website and hopefully draw them to enter your site. As with keywords, careful thought should be given to your Meta description.
It should be additionally noted that each “important” page in your website should contain both keywords and Meta descriptions. Each page can and should be you silent, 24/7, sales partner!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Building Your Website – Optimization (Continued…)


As I mention in my previous article, building you website so that it attracts Search Engines is an absolute must! There are many things within a website that search engine “web crawlers” look for. (Wikipedia describe them as follows: A web crawler (also known as a web spider, web robot, or—especially in the FOAF community—web scutter) is a program or automated script which browses the World Wide Web in a methodical, automated manner.) “Crawlers” are what search engines “send out” to gather up-to-date website information. Search engines use this information for each website to categorize it and to rank it. Some web designers think that all they have to do is to insert some keywords and search engines will love them. This may have been true a few years ago, but, “times, they are a changing!” Search engines are becoming much more sophisticated and are now looking, in addition to keywords, at Meta descriptions, page content, outside links, website continuity and site and content relevance.  If you haven’t included all of these into your website you won’t likely be highly rated by search engines! Being to “cute” also does not help! Search engine companies don’t like it when you try to fool them. If they find out that you have been “fixing” your site too much, they may penalize you or, worse, delete you from their search engine entirely. Having someone you can consult with about the intricacies of website construction and search engine optimization will go a long way to having the type of website you deserve!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Building Your Website


Over the past year or so, I have talked about the importance of festivals and events having good websites. In my last blog I described a conversation I had with a friend of mine who is a website designer/marketer. Over the next few blogs I am going to expand on what my friend told me. I don’t pretend to be a website expert, but over the last few years, in developing my website, www.ontariofestivalsvisited.ca, we have learned a few tricks. Some were by design, but most were by accident! The results, however, have given me a fairly successful website. When you type in “Ontario festivals”, we are consistently shown in the top 1-4 positions on the three major search engines, Google, Yahoo and MSN.
1.    Site Construction: Having a website is easy! With the right tools or the right amount of money anyone can have a website. However, having a website is like owning a car. If you have a poor engine you may or may not get to where you want to go. If you have a great engine, you will get to where you want to go with ease! If you have no engine… while you get the picture! Having a great “engine” is the only way to go, so make sure you find out how to get a great engine! Experienced web designers build websites to attract two types of visitors, human and search engines. Search engines are the most important because they direct humans to websites. Each visitor is looking for different things and so, as I said before to have to appeal to both to succeed. The construction of your website needs a sound foundation that includes all the fundamentals of successful sites, that is well written code. Search engines can and will penalize sites for poorly written code. So, if you are designing your website yourself, check with an expert to make sure your site is constructed properly. There are website evaluators out there who can help you and set you straight if need be. If you don’t want to design your own site, make sure you hire someone who has all the necessary skills to construct you site properly. Remember, a website that doesn’t attract search engines or humans is a site without an “engine”!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What’s In Your Website?


I have been thinking a lot lately about my websites. I want to know if they are as effective as I want (need) them to be. In talking with a web designer friend, I realized that they all needed to be re-evaluated! I asked him to explain what the key ingredients where for a successful website. He started to answer me in another language, techno speak! I told him to slow down and talk to me in a language I could understand, English! He did and we covered a wide range of topics. Here is a summary of our conversation. In future blogs I will try to explain his ideas more fully and hopefully in “plain” English!
1.    SEO or “Search Engine Optimization” – Simple put, getting search engines to recognize your site. Once a site is recognized it is categorized (keywords) and then listed in importance.
2.    Meta Tags and Keywords – These are words inserted in your website. They attract search engines to your site and its pages.
3.    Meta Description – This is the description that appears in you search engine listing
4.    Use of Keywords in Text – In order to emphasize keywords, they must be used often in the text of the web page
5.    Highlighting Text – Once keywords are chosen and inserted, they must be shown as being important. This is accomplished by highlighting (bold, italicized, underlined) each keyword.
6.    Web Pages – Each important page (home, about us, products, etc.) should be optimized (keywords, description, highlighting).
7.    Updating – Sites should be frequently updated and the information must be correct and consistent.
8.    Simplicity – Simplicity is best, especially the home page, in web design, page layout and contents.
9.    Website Layout – Sites should be easy to maneuver. Complicated site discourage visitors from surfing through your site’s pages.
10. Contact Information – Make sure that visitors to your site have a way of contacting you. Since the contact is being made via the internet, e-mail contact is a must.
11. Linking – Encouraging other website to link with yours is important. However, the linked sites should have relevancy to you business or site. Linking for the sake of linking is not a good move.
12. Traffic – Finally, the goal of every site should be increased traffic (visitors to your site). How you design and manage your site will determine its popularity and thus traffic.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What’s The Real Solution?


How many times have we heard politicians and special interest groups call for drastic legislation as a “knee-jerk” reaction to a problem? You don’t need a fish net to catch a fly!
Unfortunately many make far reaching demands without worrying about the consequences. And the problem is, once a law is on the books, it stays there! Rarely, if ever, is a law, good, bad or outdated, taken off the books! So, poorly thought out laws either create havoc or they are just ignored! Most of these groups and politicians are well meaning. They see a problem and want it corrected. That’s fine if it really does solve the problem, but too often the solution goes way beyond the actual problem, thus the net to catch a fly analogy. New laws must be thoroughly thought through and all of the ramification must be considered. Consider the banning of all plastic water bottles. I have heard towns and groups advocating banning them entirely. Why not work jointly with water companies and plastic bottle manufacturers to come up with a safe acceptable solution. Similarly I have heard the some groups want paper coffee cups banned. The same applies here, get all the interested parties together and fine a solution. Poorly thought out laws don’t serve anyone’s purpose!
Personally, I like the attitude of some of the festival organizers have taken. For example, the Guelph Hillside Festival was having problems with too many plastic water bottles. They wanted to reduce or eliminate their use. The Festivals solution was to develop a practical alternate. They decided to bring in a tank full of potable water and then sell re-usable aluminum water bottles that could be filled up for free! As a result of this innovative thinking they drastically reduced the plastic bottle waste! Then there is the Shelter Valley Folk Festival. They wanted to have a “green” festival. They wanted local products to be used and to have little waste. There solution was quite simple. Contract with local food vendors and make sure they were committed to using local produce. That was solution number one. The second solution for waste was just as simple. Invest in re-usable plates and cutlery and convince a whole bunch of people to volunteer to keep them washed! Now they enjoy a wonderful “green” festival, that is the pride of all those involved!
Rather than take draconian measures, each identified a challenge and then found intelligent solutions! Politician and advocacy groups would do well to take note!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

When The Going Gets Tough…


This year has been a disaster for many events. The cost of gas is higher. The economy is poor and the weather hasn’t co-operated! How many festivals and events will fail this year? For their community’s sake, I hope not many, but that may be just wishful thinking. However, there is hope. Gary and I were visiting a Fair a while ago and bumped into an old acquaintance. He is one of the long time organizers of the Cobourg Highland Games. The Cobourg Games, a one day event, was hit with one of the worst rainfalls! The parade and many of their events had to be moved indoors and, worse, had to be cancelled. Vendors left early and attendance, their life blood, was down to catastrophic levels. As a result the Games lost a great deal of money! Many committees would have thrown it the towel, but not the Cobourg Highland Games. They have had a proud tradition for over 50 years. My friend told me that they were in the process of organizing fundraisers to recoup their losses and planned on coming back next year bigger and better! I believe with the help of the Cobourg community they will do just that! If festivals and events are going to survive in today’s economy, their organizers are going to have to get tough and get going! Their communities are counting on them!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Step Up To The Plate…


How many times have you made a promise to do something and then forgotten to do it? Or, how many times have you asked someone to do something for you and they have forgotten? How did you feel when it happened to you? It’s definitely important to keep your word when family, friends and bosses are involved, but what about casual contacts? I believe it’s important to keep all of your promises. Have I ever messed up? Yes, but I really make a conscientious effort not to. I can’t tell you how many times Gary and I have asked someone to send us information about their event or product, and not received the information! It’s not only rude, it’s very poor business! I participated in many events where people have asked me to send information. I do, and most times I don’t get any response. it can be and is frustrating, but do I stop sending information? The answer is, of course, no. I guess some people become stilted and only go through the motions of promising to do something even though they have no intension of following through. They feel that they are just “wasting” their “valuable” time responding to someone who doesn’t really want the requested information! It’s too bad, in our case, because we usually want to promote their product or event on our website for free! If we don’t hear from them, we don’t promote! Look at the Babe Ruth. He struck out many more times than he hit and yet he was considered the greatest Baseball Player of all time! If you can’t or won’t follow-up, be honest, tell that to the person who requested the information. They may not like it, but they will at least respect you for telling them the truth! So, when you say that you are going to do something, “Step up to the plate” and “follow through”, you may hit a “HOME RUN”!


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Setting the Stage…


In real estate jargon they say a great looking house has “curb appeal”. When they want to make the inside of a house more appealing, they call it “staging”! What they are talking about is “marketing”, making the house “saleable”. There are lots of television programs on the air right now about this subject.
Festivals and events should learn from the real estate industry!  Festival and event organizers should pay greater attention on how their event looks, both on the inside and the outside! An appealing outside will attract people; make them want to come in to “check” the event out. A well planned inside will make them want to stay, spend money and tell their friends about the great event! It will also bring them back, year after year.
Setting the stage” is easy to do, but it takes thought and planning. Not just the day before the event starts, but right from the beginning. Staging an event includes the basics such as, great location, well planned site layout, interesting activities and events, clean and convenient washrooms and informed volunteers. It also includes the not so basics, well place signs and a lot of them, a simple but effective internet website, happy and enthusiastic vendors and a workable “green” plan! Really, proper “staging” is the anatomy of a well-run successful event. The more effort that is put into this area, the better the final outcome will be. And this, in today’s competitive and costly environment, will mean the different between survival, growth and prosperity or defeat, lose and closure!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Lost Opportunity…


We visited an event that had great theme and a lot of potential! Unfortunately it fell far short of being the really special event it could have been. I know that the organizers work very hard each year, so the problem was not for lack of effort. So what went wrong? The event has been running for many years, so perhaps it needs new direction, a re-evaluation. On the day that we visited the festival, there was a whole day of events scheduled. We arrived about noon, just in time for the start of the downtown festival parade. It was a long interesting parade and would have been perfect if it was just a town parade. However, the parade was supposed to represent the festival’s theme and it did everything but! There was very little in the parade that tied to the fun and spirit of the festival’s theme!
After the parade there were a number of activities scheduled to take place in the downtown area. We couldn’t find any of them and we looked. We tried to find an event organizer or a festival program guide, but could not. We drove around town looking for signs that would point us in the rights direction. There were no directional signs to be found anywhere! We drove all around town looking for any information. The only thing we saw were a few large signs telling us to call a number for information and tickets. Even the festival information we printed off the event’s website was hard to read and incomplete. We weren’t looking for problems. We really wanted to enjoy this event! After all, we had driven several hours to get to it!

So here are the basic problems with this event:
1.    No directional signage
2.    Lack of communications
3.    Poorly designed website
4.    No informational signage
5.    Cancelled or “no show” events
6.    A parade that wasn’t theme driven

These are all solvable problems (challenges). It’s just that the event organizers have to recognize and acknowledge that the challenges exist and that is where the greatest challenge likely is. Most organizers don’t like to think they have to change and correct, but they do! Good festivals, events and businesses are constantly evaluating themselves and making changes and adjustments as necessary. Hopefully the organizers of this event will recognize the need for change. Otherwise it will be an “opportunity lost”!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

There Must Be A Reason…


It always amazes me when we go to a festival or event and find vendors that shouldn’t be there. I don’t mean that it’s the vendors fault. They are only going where they think the money is! Most of the vendors who go to these events are novices. However, when they don’t make any money or possibly loose some, they quickly learn, the hard way, to ask more questions from event organizers before they sign on the dotted line! Frankly, I think organizers who insist on having a vendors’ section even though it has no benefit to the event are misguided and are likely novices themselves!  Without proper planning and marketing, vendor sections are doomed to failure! Vendors participate in festivals and events to sell their products and to make money! If an event is going to ask vendors to participate, the organizers need to provide the type of atmosphere that is conducive to buyers buying. Many event organizers believe that they need vendors to enhance their event. This, however, is only true if they have planned vendor sales as part of their festival’s program. Anything less than this is irresponsible! Most vendors are small entrepreneurial business people who “live” and “die” by their sales. Poor sales can be disastrous!  There are enough uncontrollable elements that can affect their sales. They don’t need poor planning and apathetic organizers adding to these elements! Careful planning and intelligent promotion is a must! Festival organizers should make sure that if they are going to have a vendors’ section that it is well thought out and that they attract the right mix of vendors. Vendors, on the other hand, should know as much about the festival or event as possible and then asked a lot probing questions. Only then, once they are satisfied with what they have read and heard, should they agree to participate.
On a final note to organizers, if your festival runs into weather related problems and the financial results are poor, please remember your vendors. Most festivals are run by volunteers and are non-profit. If the festival loses money, there is no financial loss to the volunteers. On the other hand, weather can ruin vendors financially, especially if they have to pay large festival fees on top of their traveling and out of pocket expenses. Try to preplan a policy that takes these vendor losses into consideration. I know you don’t have a legal responsibility to help them, but I believe you have a moral responsibility to minimize their losses. Besides, I think it’s good business in the long run. Good hard working vendors are hard to kind and keep!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

What’s In a Name?


I like visiting festivals that have a theme. The theme gives me a better idea of what to expect. I like it even better when a whole community becomes involved in the theme! This is especially true of festivals that have a theme that can be easily embraced by the community. A pumpkin festival, for example, makes a great theme and allows residents and businesses to easily become involved. Residents can create scarecrows and put them on their lawns and in their windows. They can carve scary pumpkins and put them on their front porches. Business can decorate their buildings and business windows. They and their employees can dress up to add excitement to the theme. The festival committee can encourage participation by offering prizes for involvement. Local media can become involved by enthusiastically promoting the theme. It’s a domino effect that keeps building with momentum. The Calgary Stampede started out as just an idea many years ago and now the whole city becomes involved. If you are not wearing a Stetson during the Stampede people will look at you strangely.  The Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest is the same. Most everyone there gets into the spirit of the event. Yes, these are larger established events, but it’s the spirit that matters and the residents of these communities have the spirit! I believe that is why they have had such great success. I can remember as a kid during Christmas, our village became totally engrossed in Christmas decorating. Doors were decorated, trees and houses were totally lite up with Christmas lights and most lawns had Christmas displays. People took pride in their homes and their community and it showed. People from all over flocked to our community just to see what the village residents had done. This tradition happened year after year and droves of people returned each year. It may seem like you have enough to do just organizing your event, but the positive benefits of having your community become “the event” will pay huge dividends in both the number of visitors and the dollars spent. The more interesting you can make your event, the better your event will become. Attention to details, large and small, is important to successful events!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Crowd Control…


A few years ago Gary and I went to Upper Canada Village for an 1812 re-enactment battle. The battle took place on a large open field and the audience was able to watch the battle while sitting on the side of a shaded hill. It was a perfect theatre. The field was “roped off” to prevent onlookers from wandering onto the battle grounds and joining the battle. We arrived in plenty of time to get a good viewing area. Additional people arrived even after the start of the battle. As the hillside filled up and more onlookers came to watch the re-enactment, they started taking spots at the rope barrier. They stood there to watch the activities. Soon the complete barrier line was filled with people! The people who had planned their time and who had come early to get a good viewing spot had their view blocked by the late comers up front! I can’t understand the mentality of people who arrive late for an event and then think they have the right to block the view of those who came early. Frankly, I find this type of behavior rude and unacceptable! What is even worse is the most festivals and events allow this to happen and then don’t take any action to prevent or correct it! Fortunately this was not the case at the Upper Canada Village re-enactment! As soon as the announcer noticed what was happening, he stopped describing the battle and asked the people up front to move away from the rope barrier and take places on the hill. The press who were taking photographs were allowed to stay but were asked sit down on the ground and to keep a low profile. My congratulations to the organizers of Upper Canada Village re-enactment! I can only hope that more organizers will take action against the few rude and annoying people who consider it their right to come late and then get a front seat view!

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

Survival…


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

Change…


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

Confusion…

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!