I published a version of this post last July, still relevant in 2015.
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 again. No it’s Elvis Festival time and subsequently VFAN’s yearly blog roasting of that same festival. Fortunately, this year they have returned to the original format. We get one less day than last year, of endless toneless droning encompassing the downtown core of Collingwood. This happens year after year like a nightmarish real life version of the movie “Ground Hog Day”.
When is this annual 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. The mucky-mucks 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 so. Yeah those CBC and CTV news fillers covering this event are not laughing with us folks, they are laughing at us. When I try and explain it to my friends and family 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 2015 Elvis Presley is no longer cool. Elvis impersonators even less cool and I venture to add 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 – which has now left town. Ride for Sight – nothing is 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 (Bygone Days for instance:) ) 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 “Imagine Dragons live in Collingwood” on the iTunes top 100 chart.
A very good friend of mine had a girlfriend a few years ago. That relationship reminds me of the Collingwood Elvis Festival and our town. It ended up being that the only thing he was getting out of the relationship was the Visa bill at the end of the month. Collingwood’s “girlfriend” costs us tax payers on average $40-50k per year to cover this festivals shortfalls. Last year even with the addition of the Elvis fraternities version of the “Queen of Sheba” Priscilla, it lost a whopping $75k. Including the stack of books that our feckless Mayor was conned into buying, that are now gathering dust in a storage closet down at town hall somewhere.
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 that 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 and cool, than what we have already embraced with such abandon. Very little new and exciting is happening here because of our town hall’s collective attention seems to be on foisting this 1950’s and 60’s American popular culture icon on an unimpressed populace. Come on, last years papal like visit of Priscilla Presley?? She didn’t even spend one night in Collingwood flew into and out of town on her private jet. The local accommodations were not up to her impeccable standards. But our starry eyed Mayor spent as much time as possible in Priscilla’s god like presence, fawning and photo-oping all over her, it was actually quite sickening to behold.
Don’t get me wrong I am not saying ban the festival or drive it out of town. 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 way of flared pants and bushy sideburns.
I had hoped with a few new faces on town council, that we could finally start to see some open and honest conversation about this event and its future. But no they immediately fell lock stock into line in giving this event an open cheque book for three more years. Maybe we should have a few town hall type meetings to get the actual residents of this towns opinion on the whole thing. It is not a fate-accompli that we have to fund and host this event every year.
Like my buddy once said “The best thing I remember about Robyn was watching her arse walk out the front door for the last time”. Our town will collectively say the same thing after Elvis finally leaves the building for good.