It’s that time of year again. No I don’t mean the summer trip to the cottage, or time to get the AC system serviced. No it’s Elvis Festival time. This year as an added bonus they have tacked on an extra day of endless toneless droning that encompasses the whole of the downtown core of Collingwood. When is this yearly dose of self-flagellation going to end? In the run up to this event I have not talked to one local resident that embraces or even likes this festival. Those that are in charge of us, keep telling us it’s great for tourism. If making us the laughing stock of Ontario is good for tourism I can think of a lot cheaper, less inconvenient ways of doing it. Yeah those CBC and CTV news fillers covering the Collingwood Elvis Festival are not laughing with us folks they are laughing at us. When I try and explain it to friends from out of town, they give me a look of bemused bewilderment and usually ask “and the towns connection to Elvis is???” Let’s face it ladies and gentleman in 2014 Elvis Presley is no longer cool. Elvis impersonators even less cool and dare I say tacky. So what do you think the impression of a small town in Central Ontario is that embraces these two things? That’s right NOT COOL and TACKY. Take a look at some festivals that are cool: Wakefest – that has now left town. Ride for Sight – what could be cooler than motorcycles? Also left town. Corvette Days – very cool and long gone. It is way past time for this town to grab itself by its collective boot straps and start re-imagining itself. Maybe by having an annual Rock festival similar to the ones they have in England – Glastonbury, Knebworth, Hyde Park. There are loads of farmer’s fields that could be used for this purpose and as far as I know no one else is doing it in Ontario. What could be cooler for a towns image than “Coldplay Live in Collingwood” on the Billboard top 100.
A good buddy of mine had a girlfriend a few years ago that reminds me of Collingwood Elvis Festival. It ended up the only thing he was getting out of the relationship was the Visa bill at the end of the month. Collingwood’s “girlfriend” cost the tax payers $40,000.00 to cover last year’s Elvis shortfall and its more or less the same each year.
Keeping with the girlfriend analogy, sometimes you stick in a relationship because you are used to it and you are scared of the unknown. Then when it’s all finished up you find there is a whole world out there that you have been missing out on. What we are missing is a slew of mid-summer festivals and events that are a lot more relevant to this town, area, province, country’s history and culture and maybe even a little more chilling. Nothing new and exciting is happening here, because our town halls collective attention is on foisting this 1950’s and 60’s American popular culture icon on an unimpressed populace. Come on – Priscila Presley making an appearance??? I bet she doesn’t even spend a night in Collingwood. The local accommodations are probably not up to her impeccable standards. (BTW our mayor just started following her on Twitter, I had to again try and control the gag reflex).
Don’t get me wrong I am not saying ban the festival. But make it pay for itself. Meaning no subsidizing the event. Any town resources that go into making this event possible get reimbursed by Elvis Presley Enterprises in the form of a licencing fee. It should also pay for its own extra policing and EMS overtime costs. You would soon see this festival go the way of the dodo bird.
I really hope that with a few new faces on town council, this coming October, we can finally start to have some open and honest conversations about this event and its future. Maybe a few town hall type meetings to get the actual residents of this town opinion on the whole thing. It is not a fate-accompli that we have to fund and run this thing every year.