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Summer in the Park to reinvent itself after taking a loss

North Bay's Summer in the Park Festival made its final report on its 2013 season during Monday evening's regular City Council meeting.

North Bay's Summer in the Park Festival made its final report on its 2013 season during Monday evening's regular City Council meeting.

The report highlighted areas of both concern and success with the past year's operation in regards to its selling of wristbands and local economic impact.

The 2013 season was the first year that the committee purchased event insurance following the 2012 cancellation of Meatloaf in a major thunderstorm that virtually removed the Saturday evening portion of the event.

Although concert goers were disappointed that Meatloaf was unable to perform, the festival managed to sell over 8500 wristbands that weekend.

With the fortunate insurance in place, 2013's Summer in the Park had a similar heavy storm blow in on Friday evening for the Metric concert.

This created a dip in ticket sales, which peaked at the Friday evening door, right when the threatening storm shut down the event to allow the storm to pass through the area.

This meant that ticket sales were down and, with the value of a ticket representing merely one major concert; the committee had to engage its insurance and offer refunds for the non-event on Friday evening.

This resulted in the committee generating income back in the form of an insurance claim to cover costs which will allow them to go forward into the 2014 year and renew the event with the hopes of good weather, although they do plan to again purchase insurance for the concerts.

“We relied on walk up ticket sales,” says former SITP committee chair Jacques Lecourse.

“Advanced ticket sales are awesome but year over year we see, give or take about 50 percent of our ticket sales are sold at the gate,” says Lecourse.

“So, of course” he says, “when people are sitting in their hotel room or at their friends or family's place or wherever they are and they see that there's a major storm in Sturgeon Falls and circling around us, they're not coming down to watch Metric or whomever is on the stage.”

The 2014 concert lineup has yet to be announced, with John Strang taking over as the new Chair of the Summer in the Park committee.

Strang pointed out during the council meeting that wristbands have already been designed for the event and their budget was approximately $600,000.

Last year's festival, with its weather issues, did see only 4400 tickets sold but the committee was able to put together monies from its reserves and insure that the festival continues for the August long weekend of 2014.

Interesting, it was decided by the new committee that this year's Summer in the Park festival will now be held in one venue, which will be located in the downtown core.

“To me, having two locations, you're almost competing against yourself,” says Strang, noting that it takes many components for a festival to generate revenue.

“We have a beautiful waterfront now that's near completion and, with the Heritage North Bay museum and everything that's down there, it just made sense,” he says.

Strang also announced that, for the first time, the committee has hired a talent agent, who has been given a new and refined directive to find acts that are well known but not necessarily youth oriented, to make a short list of 10 that they could then whittle down to fill their stages on the Friday and Saturday evening.

The committee is also looking into renewing the Sunday portion of the event by bringing in a Canadian heritage act similar to the many bands that play the festival and casino circuit.

Last year's event saw exceeding well beer sales, especially on the Sunday of the long weekend, for exactly this type of act, with older and younger crowds coming out to partake and have a good time.

The SITP festival was discussed at length by council, who noted that studies have revealed that numerous people from outside the community do make it a point to get to North Bay for the festival and many local businesses, from gas stations, banks, hotels and restaurants all see an upswing in their business.

Councillors threw around the idea of encouraging more requests for more corporate sponsors, especially in the business fields that benefit the most from the weekend's sales.

A small disagreement was also apparent during passing the 2014 Summer in the Park budget between two councillors, with Councillor Koziol exclaiming her surprise that new Councillor Mark King would consider spending $40,000 to help the festival as an appropriate spending of the taxpayer's money.

However, it was evident that most counsellors believe that the festival is a unique opportunity to promote the community and its lifestyle to all sorts of people from around the country and world that North Bay has a lot to offer and most importantly, it supports the arts in the community as well.

“Summer in the park is an economic drive for our community, “says Mayor Al McDonald.

“The estimates for economic return is about $5 million,” McDonald says, who points out that the festival's $600,000 budget, apart from purchasing entertainment acts, is mostly put back into the community's coffers.

"It has to be managed correctly and be fiscally responsible," he says, "but the individuals that are chairing it and sitting around the table know what they're doing and I fully support it.”