Yes. However, I would choose to use the word “invest” versus subsidize. The Municipality each year invests your tax dollars through direct investment, staff resources and in-kind contributions to many events and organizations. The sum of these events and organizations contribute to overall health, vibrancy and economic success that is Collingwood. The Collingwood Elvis Festival is celebrating 20 years and is recognized as the “World’s Largest Elvis Festival” and is not something that can be replaced overnight. Both the Festival and staff have been recognized provincially and this is something to be celebrated!
However, in an effort to ensure resources are invested wisely I would like to see better surveying during the festival. This past winter I was in Peterborough, ON attending a hockey tournament. There were 50+ teams from across the province. Something I took away is that every time I entered an arena I was approached to complete an “Economic” survey. To ensure the data was accurate and avoid duplication I was given a card similar to what the Scout’s give out on Apple Day that I could show surveyors as they approached me. The information was being gathered to assess the economic impact of the tournament on the local economy and to find out where improvement could be made. I stand to be corrected but I don’t think this is being done during Elvis (or other community events).
Finally, this time last year I was having lunch with my two boys in one of the local restaurants along Hurontario Street. Our server asked “if we were in town for Elvis?” Before I could respond she followed up by saying “the festival is wonderful for the Town of Collingwood.” The festival didn’t impact me that weekend. However, I bet our server did very well earning tips during the Festival.
Chris Carrier (Candidate for Mayor)
The short answer is no. That being said I think the Town should buy a sponsorship like we use to do with the Horse Show and how the event organizers spend the money for the event is their decision. I believe the event could and should be run by others than the municipal staff. Municipal Staff should be assigned to ensure the process for approvals is made as easy and as simple as possible so resources/money are where necessary to ensure a successful event both from a community perspective and bottom line. I trust our Town Staff to make the right decisions to ensure public safety and a great community experience. I only have access to information that is available on the Town’s web site and in the media about this event but in speaking to people involved with the Elvis Festival and some who are familiar with other events the cost and timeliness of the process for approvals can be streamlined. There is more than enough data available for our Town Staff and Committee Members plus Stakeholders to audit the event approval process and the associated costs to determine how to improve for the following year’s event. The event gives our community significant profile much like Wakestock and the Horse Show did albeit with different demographic groups. Exit interviews are done with personnel so why not Event Organizers (who for whatever reasons leave our community) with the goal to improve the process to retain existing events and also to attract other events. I spoke with a young lady who at last year’s Elvis festival earned one thousand dollars plus in tips serving food and alcohol. I have had local merchants who say the “echo effect” where visitors come back a few weeks later to our community after the Elvis event to experience our hometown when it is not so hectic is both real and important to their bottom line. There is a lot of money involved in this event and a subsidy is not needed. Privatizing the event with a commitment to support a process for approvals and implementation that will improve the bottom line and strengthen our already existing relationships with key stakeholders is the direction I would like to Council consider.
As I said in the comments on your blog I absolutely do not believe that Collingwood tax dollars, labour and equipment should be going toward the Elvis festival. There are any number of other events – soccer tournaments, swim meets, ball tournaments, hockey tournaments etc that bring visitors to our community and benefit the economy as a result. None of them are subsidized the way this event is. I believe a lot of people have fun and get enjoyment out of the event but it should not be at a cost to our local residents.
The other reality is that In fact there are a number of businesses that actually lose money Elvis weekend because their regular customers will not come downtown. Perhaps those businesses that do benefit should be supporting the festival – no tax dollars.
“My previous background with the Elvis Festival (formerly Competition Chair through my involvement as President of the Chamber of Commerce) provides me with a base of understanding of how a fledgling idea hatches and then what transpires to guaranteeing that it is successful and long-lasting signature event. When an event becomes globally known and has grown into a professionally endorsed year in year out major success Council and the community must do everything it can to keep it going. They have to ensure that it runs smoothly and safely, that area business benefit as much as possible and that all of the residents can enjoy being involved and interacting with the event’s guests and participants. It became very clear in the early years of the event that this can’t be just a volunteer run event. The size of the undertaking is one reason but another major one is that it is during prime vacation time and it would be extremely difficult to regularly attract enough volunteers.
I support the involvement of the municipality in meeting the mandate of the Elvis Festival Service Board. That being said it is imperative, in every instance possible, when it requires the use of town expenditures and resources that a proper business plan approach be incorporated. That includes utilizing an annual cost/benefit analysis review as the basis to examine the accuracy of projections and then to determine the next commitment. Currently for this, as I see it, the required system is in place. For example after the July 2013 event the EFSB quickly provided on Sept. 9/13 a detailed analysis and obtained Oct. approval for 2014. Appropriately the EFSB includes council, staff, Chamber, BIA and very importantly 2 community reps, as well as an Event Manager, to ensure proper control is in place. This working model is a result of Council incorporating community initiative and planning to maximize the resulting benefits. Control and community engagement is imperative when holding an internationally recognized event that attracts so many visitors to our community. We want to provide such a wonderful and safe experience to them that they will want to return again and again.”