Tall Ships Festival nets more than $100,000

The Spanish vessel Nao Santa Maria drew steady crowds on Saturday and Sunday during the Brockville Tall Ships Festival. (FILE PHOTO) jpg, BT

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This summer’s Brockville Tall Ships Festival has left behind a surplus of more than $100,000.

Festival committee chairman Brian Burns this week told city councillors the Labour Day weekend event has left organizers with a surplus of $100,701.91, buoyed by significant Ontario government grants, “very strong corporate support,” and “greater attendance than expected.”

Council’s economic development, recreation and tourism committee is recommending the money be put in a reserve to be used toward future Tall Ships festivals.

“It couldn’t happen without the volunteers, and it can’t happen without the leadership of some of the city staff,” said Burns.

“You have the gratitude of the city because you certainly presented an event that we were all so proud of,” said committee chairwoman Coun. Jane Fullarton.

The Tall Ships Festival, the third edition of what has become Brockville’s blockbuster tourism event, packed the waterfront as it did the two previous times, in 2016 and 2013. This year’s highlight was the iconic Canadian vessel Bluenose II.

The first Tall Ships event left behind a similar surplus to this year’s, while the 2016 version ended in a $29,000 deficit.

The spinoff effects of the recent festival were felt in the local tourism and hospitality industries, with the Railway Tunnel and Aquatarium gaining greater exposure and traffic, Burns noted.

“All hotel, motel, B-and-Bs were totally booked for the weekend and many visitors were sent to Prescott and Gananoque; even the minister of tourism had to book her room in Gananoque,” he added.

Burns acknowledged there is room for improvement as the city prepares to host the ships again on their next Great Lakes sail in 2022.

“Do we really need Hardy Park? Because we moved the Empire Sandy over to Blockhouse Island … but we would lose the Kids’ Zone.”

Other problems were “nice problems,” such as long lineups for the ships and for the shuttle buses at the Memorial Centre, he added.

“But I must say, of all festivals I’ve ever attended, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people from out of town and so many smiles on so many people,” said Burns.

“We were almost complaint-free, and that’s tremendous for handling that number of people.”

Fullarton noted that putting the surplus in reserve will be useful for Tall Ships organizers in part because the provincial grants situation is always uncertain.

“We had such a successful event this year because we were extremely successful with grants, but it’s not your turn every year to get every grant, and there aren’t always the big ones that are available,” she said.

The committee recommendation on the surplus is to place it in a reserve to offset the costs of the 2022 Tall Ships Festival, as well as future Big River Festivals beginning with 2020.

“We’re looking forward to 2022 and thanks for your willingness to serve,” Fullarton told the Tall Ships volunteers.

Rzajac@postmedia.com

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