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"!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Our Grandson… Part 1

Some time 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 classic boat and car show that taking place in August in Rosseau. He had read our article about the Antique and Classic Boat Show held in Gravenhurst, and that I had attended it with our Grandson. He suggested that the new show would be great for our Grandson. This started me thinking about the “kid” friendly shows we had visited and that we 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! 

To be continued in Part 2...

Thursday, March 26, 2020

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 roll 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!

Thursday, March 19, 2020


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 compliment 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!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Contingency Planning... Part 2

We bide our time by walking the festival grounds, in the rain. Finally, with plenty of time to spare, we made our way to the main attraction’s venue. We found a good viewing spot and claimed as our own. As the time got closer to 3:00 PM, set up activities started to take place. This activity seemed to draw people to the staging area! People started to arrive in numbers and were sitting and standing wherever they could. So much for arriving early and choosing a good viewing spot! Finally, the set-up staff realized that the performance area had people in it and that they were going to interfere with the performers. After much wrangling and time, they managed to relocate the encroaching crowd to new non-conflicting positions. 3:00 pm came and went! At approximately 3:20 PM the first performers were introduced. The whole production was spectacular, definitely worth waiting for! 
However, I believe that the confusion and delays could have been avoided if the contingency plans had been taken more seriously. Plans like these need to be practiced and understood by ALL staff members, not just the planners! This was a world class event, at a world class venue. I am sure that in the good weather everything ran smoothly, but with the bad weather everything seemed to fall apart. This event deserved to have the same professionalism, good weather or bad!  

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Contingency Planning... Part 1

Some time ago, we visited an event that was scheduled to have its activities take place inside and outside. When we arrived, it was raining quite heavily, plus it was cold! A bad combination for a spring festival! When we got there, I checked with the festival information desk to obtain an event schedule. One of the staff explained the schedule and outlined the changes being made due to the poor weather (rain/cold). Everything seemed organized with an adequate contingency plan. 

Unfortunately, the execution of the plans was poor! Staff were walking about, confused as to where and when activities were taking place. There was one event that we particularly wanted to see, so we asked one of the staff members the time of the next performance. She told us 1:30 PM. When we came back at 1:15 PM to see the show, there was no line up, so we asked a different attendant the time of the show. He told us 2:45 PM! This was disappointing, not only because we were given incorrect information, but the time was in direct conflict with the main attraction which was to start at 3:00 PM. We decided to miss the 2:45 PM performance. 

To be continued in Part 2...

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Amazing Recovery…

A number of years ago, we visited the Bowmanville Maple Festival & All That Jazz. The entire main street was closed off for the festival. The was no mean feat, as the main street is the former Highway #2 and is normally a very busy road! However, the road was closed and full of festival visitors. Parking close to the main street was difficult to find, but after a little driving we found a spot on one of the side streets. We walked from our parked car to the main street. The festival was in full swing! Vendors had set up their booth along the street. There was a long line up at the Lions Pancake Breakfast and jazz musicians were entertaining the crowds at several locations.

 What I have just described is typical of any great event. People walking the festival and having a good time. This year’s Bowmanville Maple Festival was NOT typical! Bowmanville had just experienced a major downtown fire just a few days before the festival. Fire crews had spent hours preventing the fire from spreading and succeeded heroically! The citizens of Bowmanville must have been in shock, but the spirit of the residents and the festival organizers lived on! Despite the calamity the festival was held as scheduled. I know Gary and I enjoyed ourselves, as did the other festival visitors. 

To me this shows what true community spirit is all about. People working together even in the face of great odds! 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Festival Amenities… Part 2

I believe the overall effect would be a win-win for everyone. Festivals who participate in the program would have better events, would draw more visitors and have fewer disappointed attendees. Visitors going to these festivals would know in advance what to expect. This would mean happier attendees and happier attendees usually spend more.
 If Festivals and Events Ontario were to spearhead this program, they could use it as a membership recruitment tool and it would give them the opportunity to educate and upgrade their existing festival and event members. The standards should be detailed, but not be too complicated. The program could start out by standardizing simple amenities, ones that every attendee would appreciate knowing about. Amenities such as washroom facilities and their placement, seniors and disabled facilities, children’s facilities, first aid, shuttle services and “green” programs could be the first ones standardized, others could follow later. With gas and food prices drastically increasing, people are becoming more and more discerning about where and how they spend their money. They want value for money spent. They don’t want to drive long distance to events that have no appeal. They are using the internet more to select the festivals and events they are going to attend. Our Ontario Visited website attests to that, as does the Ontario Travels site. 
It is important that festivals understand the changing dynamics and take advantage of them as new opportunities. Those that don’t will ultimately fail. Standard guideline, I believe, will help festivals achieve their potential.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Festival Amenities… Part 1

Gary and I determine what festivals we are going to visit, by going onto websites to see what is being offered. I think many people use the same method. If you look on most festival websites, it is very hard to tell what basic amenities they are offering, disabled parking, children’s activities, shuttle services, first aid, etc. and if they are offering any of these, what are they actually offering.  Right now, it is mainly a guessing game on the part of festival goers. 

Perhaps Festivals and Events Ontario or some other authoritative body could come up with some standard guidelines that festivals could use to describe basic amenities being offered. These guidelines could list each amenity and describe minimum standards for each. Special icons could be developed that could then be used by festivals if they met the minimum standards as outlined in the guidelines. These special icons would be the property of the developer and could only be used by festivals on written authority. By developing these standards, both festival organizers and event goers would benefit. Organizers would have amenity goals and standards to aim for, thereby making their event better. This would especially be true for new events. Festival visitors would benefit because they would know what amenities are being offered and what to expect from each amenity.

To Be Continued... Part 2

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Following the Crowd… (Part 2)

This type of traffic is much harder to manage than vehicle traffic because there are no “rules of the road”! It is basically every man (person) for themselves. If organizers take this fact into consideration, they should, at least, be able to help the traffic flow. This is especially important if you are encouraging seniors and the disabled to attend you event! One suggestion that I have in this area is to use “people movers” (golf carts, mini vans, and handicapped bus) for people who are unable or unwilling to move through heavy crowds. This takes some of the pressure off both organizers and seniors/disabled. Other suggestions for traffic control include strategic placement of major attractions, clustering like attractions together (food court, craft show, midway). This helps divide crowds into a variety of different interests. One of the best festivals we visited for traffic control was the Mississauga Waterfront Festival. Their events were well spaced and due to their location, Memorial Park in Port Credit, they were able to take advantage of the park’s great walkway system. Whatever the solutions, festival and event organizers should make traffic control a high priority.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Following the Crowd… Part 1

Story as told to me by The Festival Nomad (aka Gary McWilliams)

"I can remember as a young man working at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) and being amazed at the crowds that came to visit. Back then I never felt threatened by the crowds. In fact, I loved them! I used to make a game of walking through the crowds to see how quickly I could maneuver my way through them! I was never rude, but I did say a lot of “excuse me’s”. Back then I could move quite quickly and was very agile! Now, of course, it’s different. I’m a lot older and not quite as quick or agile as I use to be! I still love walking through crowds! For Judi, it’s a completely opposite story. She hates crowds! This “love/hate” is the challenge that all successful festivals and events organizers have to face, because success brings bigger crowds. So how does a festival prepare for this type of success? First of all, traffic control, vehicle and people, has to become an intricate part of the planning process. If your traffic control is poor or non-existent, your success will be short lived! Festival and event visitors will only stand for so much inconvenience. I have talked before about parking and shuttle services, so I won’t talk about them in this blog. Rather, I want to talk about pedestrian traffic flow."

To be Continued in Part 2...

Thursday, January 23, 2020

A Helping Hand…

Over the years Gary and I have been involved, both as organizers and participants, of many festivals and events, and of course, we have visited many more. As vendors, we always appreciated when we were treated well and were disappointed when we weren’t. Festivals that treat their vendors and participants well, will always be the event of choice for the better vendors. If your festival or event’s revenue is based upon the success of your vendors, treating them well just makes sense! It should play a major part in your event’s vendor marketing program. 
One festival that I know of, has taken this treatment to heart and offer their vendors a variety of amenities. Some of them include special vendor parking, booth sitting services and s vendor relaxation area with refreshments. Tenting and electricity are also included as part of their booth fee. By providing these, their Craft Show and Sale has a waiting list and they have the “cream” of the crafters participating in their show! 
Another event, offers their vendors a lunch service. While we were visiting this show, we saw volunteers go to each vendor and ask for their lunch order. We found out that the volunteer then went back to the in-show cafĂ©, put up the order and then brought it back to the exhibitor. On a short show, where selling time is precious, this is a great benefit! 
I can tell you from experience that these services are really appreciated and good vendors seek out festivals and events that go the extra mile when it come to the treatment of their vendors. By doing this it’s a win-win situation for everyone, great vendors equal great events and happy visitors!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Activity Planning…

Some time ago, Gary and I visited a festival and were disappointed when we found out the amount of down time we were going to experience if stayed for the whole event. With this particular festival, they had plenty of activities planned for the morning and musical entertainment for the evening but not very much in-between. 
The type of planning may be acceptable for local residents, but for out-of-town visitors it is a deterrent. Having an interesting array of activities and events, strategically scheduled for the entire day/weekend is critical to a successful event. When planning an event, organizers must keep in mind who they are trying to attract and then plan the event/festival accordingly. One event that we visited, in my opinion, planned their activities and event to perfection. They had a wide range of interesting events that appealed to their target market. The activities and events were planned in such a way that none interfered with the other. This included timing and just as important, sound interference. Also, the events were planned in such a way that visitors could make their way without having to run to make it in time. This type of scheduling avoids the tension that so often results in angry parents dragging their children from event to event. Judging the reaction of fellow visitors, I could see that they also appreciated the efforts of the organizing committee. 
Successful festivals always know who their target market is and how to cater to them.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Festival Dining... Part Two

Festivals should be aware of this trend and make sure they are making this type of food available. One food related area that most festivals miss is having a decent eating area close to the food vendors. There is nothing more annoying then having to juggle food, drinks, purses and packages or to have to stand up to eat. It is such a simple thing to provide food area seating. I can’t understand why festivals don’t offer this amenity. 
One of the best examples of how to combine all of these elements is the Winona Peach Festival. At the Winona Peach Festival they have one large food court area. All the food vendors are located in this one area. The food vendors, all of whom are manned and operated by local community and service groups, offer a large variety of wholesome foods. Visitors, after purchasing their food, can take it to a covered eating area! The Winona Peach Festival is a great event to learn from and copy. Good food, at a reasonable price, will always win the hearts of festival visitors! 
Finally, I have one further suggestion. When setting up an eating area, festival organizers should include a wash-up facility. I am sure that this is one element that would be very much appreciated by all visitors.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Festival Dining… Part One

To me food and how it’s presented is an important part of how people perceive an event or festival. Part of the festival experience is the food and it’s likely the biggest festival expense for a family. If the food being offered is of poor quality, visitors will think the same of the event. I doubt this is the message that most festival organizers want to send to their attendees! I don’t mean that the food has to be at the gourmet level, but I believe that it must be prepared well and have strong appeal for the whole family. 

Fortunately local governments and health boards are taking a closer look at outdoor eating facilities and making vendors prepare their food in a more hygienic fashion. This answers the preparation concern, but not the appeal. Festival organizers should screen potential food vendors very carefully to insure the only reputable operators are allowed to participate. Careful attention should be made to the types of foods being offered. A wide variety is preferable, not only for the people attending but for the vendors themselves. In addition to hygiene and variety, people are demanding healthier and more nutritional foods. 

To Be Continued ~ Part Two