Avonmore Cornwall Lift Off organization has failed our community. The event has struggled since their biggest year in 2010 after Chris Savard, its founder, left in a cloud of mystery that led the group to have to beg for an unsecured $30,000 loan from City Hall for 2011. The event has dwindled from 55,000 as reported by Lift Off in 2010 to less than 20K last year (and that number is being generous)
Ribfest held a few weeks after, devastated the event the last two years along with poor marketing that has it now clinging on life support as organizers led by Jason Jesmer are plodding toward the 20th Anniversary of the event.
Last year the Balloon, the calling card of the event, were moved to Avonmore with Lift Off organizers falsely blaming CBP agents in the US.
Lift Off had a public meeting; mostly to announce the Kinsmen’s $15,000 sponsorship for this year; but secondly to get public feedback. The even held at the Ramada Inn after being moved from OPG had less than two dozen people show up; mostly organizers of the event and Corus radio talking heads.
At that meeting they again spun out another porkie about the balloons for the upcoming festival as reported in former Lift Off President, Rick Shaver led Seaway
It took nearly an hour for a question to be asked about the hot-air balloons that give the festival its name. Festival organizers were asked about balloons drifting into the United States and the problems that caused this past summer. Organizers said new officials on the American side are opposed to having any balloons land across the border due to the resources they must use to go out to the landing sites. This means if there is any chance the wind may blow the balloons south, they will not be able to take off from Lamoureux Park.
However like the last time organizers blamed our good neighbours to the South I contacted Shelbe Benson-Fuller of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Public Affairs who sent us the following statement:
CBP knows the importance of facilitating trade and travel, while maintaining the close community ties on both sides of the border, and successfully accomplishing not only our border security mission but also having a successful event for event organizers. As such, CBP has and will continue to work with businesses and event organizers to facilitate any cross-border activities while enforcing current laws and securing our shared border.
Over the years, CBP has worked with Lift Off organizers on procedures to mitigate the balloons entering the U.S., however, there was no notification from Lift Off organizers to CBP until July 11, when the 17 balloonists entered the U.S.July 12, CBP meet with Lift Off organizers to discuss the incident and it was at this time when Lift Off officials informed CBP that the event was moved to Avonmore, Ontario. There have been no further discussions by CBP or Lift Off organizers since July 12.
I’m bewildered on a few points? One why would Lift Off Organizers blame our good friends to the South, again? And why would Todd Lihou again repeat such a quote after being embarrassed last time?
And more importantly after last time a retired Canadian Border Agent offered to act as a liaison for the event and has yet to be contacted. After our last story as well I received a few angry messages about not helping Lift Off to which I offered my services to the board as I’ve run over 200 live events in my past including being a co-promoter of the 1994 NHL All Star festivities at le Place de Congres in Montreal. That offer of assistance also was not accepted nor even responded to after the board meeting regarding the new board, still led by Jason Jesmer.
Will Lift Off happen this year? Is it Lift Off without balloons over Cornwall? Only organizers can answer that question; but it truly would be sad if this event folded because of some amateur porkie tellers who tried to suck and blow at the same time.
What do you think dear viewers of CFN? You can post your comments below.