Elvis gets a reprieve
Three-year-old Barrett Donahue is prepared to share her candy bar with a visiting Elvis Tribute Artist during July's festival. The Corporate and Community Services committee accepted a recommendation to continue the festival in Collingwood for two years.
COLLINGWOOD — Elvis lives, at least for another two years.
The calendar had been set on what is dubbed the world’s biggest Elvis Festival three years ago when Collingwood’s parks, recreation and culture department was instructed to oversee a study on the long-term viability of the festival.
Members of the Corporate and Community Services Committee heard the conclusion of the study Monday night, where they were faced with an either/or recommendation.
The committee could either ask council to consider approving the continuation of the festival for another two years, which would take it to a landmark 25th anniversary, or direct staff to cease production of the festival and search for a third party who may want to run it.
“We are at a crossroads,” said parks, recreation and culture department director Dean Collver. “The biggest challenge facing the festival is the risk associated with the financials.”
The festival’s overall expenses remained within the budget for 2017, however projected revenues failed to measure up as there was a significant reduction in arena ticket sales.
“From an operational perspective, it was the best we could have done,” said Collver. “We achieved most of the objectives that council set out for us but the economic impact has been positive. Costs have been carefully controlled but the revenue risks remain. There is no way to avoid (whether) tickets sell or not.”
The losses from disappointing ticket sales this year lead to a deficit of $124,000. This is despite the festival bringing in $1.5 million from visitors, a rise of 15% over last year.
More than 8,000 visitors attended the festival this past year, more than 6,000 from out of town.
“I think that it would be a shame if we trashed it now,” said Coun. Kevin Lloyd, suggesting that the festival is only two years from a silver anniversary.
Part of the problem, suggested Collver, is what he calls the Canada 150 Syndrome; the number of festivals communities hosted to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial throughout the summer.
According to Festivals and Events Ontario, there was a general decline in ticket sales and attendance experienced by many of the province’s festivals.
Although revenue is the biggest challenge, Collver told the committee that partnerships with The Blue Mountains, Cranberry/Living Water and the OLG are strong and that all indications are that they are prepared to support the festival.
After some discussion, the committee voted unanimously to accept the proposal to maintain the festival for another two years.
Council will hear the motion at their next meeting.