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Funding boost for Brockville festival

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Brockville’s planned summer blockbuster is getting a bit of extra funding.

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Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark set up his podium on the dock beside the tall ship Black Jack Friday afternoon to announce Brockville’s Tall Ships Festival Weekend will get $40,000 from the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund.

The funding is in addition to the $116,843 already announced for the Big River Festival, which will lead up to the tall ships event.

“Our government recognizes the vital role that festivals and events play in economies” like the local area, Clark told the small crowd that included Black Jack crew members and tourism and festival officials.

“We’re committed to continuing to invest in programs like Celebrate Ontario.”

Past recipients have said every dollar of Celebrate Ontario funding results in nearly $21 of visitor spending, said Clark.

The Big River Festival, which will run from Aug. 23 to Sept. 1, is meant to be an umbrella event that will take in a number of activities, culminating in this year’s much-anticipated return of the Tall Ships Festival.

The Big River Festival is meant to take different forms in different years, as the tall ships events only happen every three years.

The two combined grants bring the level of provincial funding over the $150,000 local organizers had initially hoped to get from Celebrate Ontario.

“Now, it’s really possible, thanks to the Celebrate Ontario grant,” said Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce tourism manager Katherine Hobbs.

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This is a good year to hold the inaugural Big River Festival, since the tall ships will ensure all eyes are on Brockville, said Hobbs.

The week-long festival will encompass some 15 “experiences,” including kayak tours to the islands, a bass fishing competition at Hardy Park, a canine dock diving championship and, in an ironic twist for late summer, a snowball-throwing competition on Water Street, Hobbs told the crowd.

There will also be an evening event at the Aquatarium and events around the Brockville Railway Tunnel, as well as day sails and training on the local tall ships Black Jack and Fair Jeanne, she added.

The tall ships event runs Aug. 30 to Sept. 1, and will feature the iconic Canadian tall ship Bluenose II.

It’s the third tall ships blockbuster in Brockville since 2013, and it will feature the return of the Pride of Baltimore and the Empire Sandy, while the Canadian Navy sail training vessel HMCS Oriole will also be part of the event, said Tall Ships Festival organizing committee chairman Brian Burns.

As it did three years ago, the event will also feature a Spanish galleon and a Coast Guard presence, said Burns.

As the Bluenose is making an appearance this time, visitors will also be able to pose in front of a six-foot replica of a Canadian dime, said Burns.

As with the previous events in 2013 and 2016, the tall ships and related attractions will extend along Hardy Park, Blockhouse Island and Centeen Park.

“We’re expecting the biggest crowd ever,” said Burns, adding he hopes the third incarnation of the maritime history celebration will draw 45,000 to 50,000 people to the city – and turn King Street into a parking lot.

Rzajac@postmedia.com

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