CORNWALL Ontario – Guy Menard I believe, really cares about his community. He and I may not agree who gets to play a part in our community, and to what degree; but clearly he wants Lift Off to remain; and so do I. Sadly his company did not sponsor Lift Off much this year; nor did any of the company’s owned by Waterfront Committee members.
Cornwall needs Lift Off. We really do; but what we don’t need is the volunteer management team. I’m sure most of them mean well; but they clearly have failed to achieve the goal to the point that the fest’s 20th Anniversary may be its last ever. I’m sure some of them can even play a role in a new management team; but that team has to be focused and professional. Being a volunteer is not an excuse for being unprofessional or unskilled.
Our fair city has a lot of untapped resources and some very niggardly corporate owners who should be sponsoring events like Lift Off. The question would be why they aren’t or aren’t sponsoring more like Mr. Menard? Where was our DBIA? Cornwall Business Machines whose owners own so many downtown locations? Some of the new restaurants like Scores? Latour Wealth Management? Cornwall Electric and Laura’s? Flowers Cornwall? JL Computers? The Chamber of Commerce? Kelsey’s? Why didn’t any of these businesses or organizations sponsor Lift Off? Where was Cogeco this year?
The city has allowed Ribfest to literally blow Lift Off away. Mayor Kilger alludes to people wanting to do things their own way in our video below and that might be connected to the Kinsmen master sponsorship. He may be right. The city gives Lift Off an amazing amount of support in services and that’s huge; but we have not been getting value for our contribution which means the management needs to be changed or taken over.
Again, whatever happened after Lift Off’s greatest year has never been publicly addressed or answered to.
Whatever happened that year led to the end of participation by event founder Chris Savard whose name isn’t even mentioned in the history of Lift Off.
I spoke with area promoter Jeff Brunet who has no connection to Lift Off even though he’s always been open and wanting to help the event.
He said that this year it was a mistake to have a “Free” evening which in this case headlined old 80’s band Glass Tiger. He added that even by charging a twoonie the event would have had an extra $20-25K based on stated attendance which could have raised the bar talent wise which would attract more people; especially those from outside of Cornwall and inspire corporate sponsorship. After all would you want your business to sponsor Glass Tiger or The Tragically Hip?
Bands and Artists touring or available in that price range plus the cost of GT in the region this Summer include Eddie Money, Bare Naked Ladies, Black Crowes, Big Sugar, The Village People, Buck Cherry, Triumph, Tragically Hip, Charley Pride, Loretta Lynn, Alice in Chains, Huey Lewis, Styx, Jann Arden and of course many others.
Lift Off refuses to state how much Corus radio pays for its sponsorship; but clearly other genres of music attract a lot of people. Look at the Havelock Fair which charges much more than the $25 per weekend that Lift Off did. Clearly the heavy emphasis of the local radio station is not improving results.
The weekend pass may make it easier to raise money; but not everyone could or wanted to buy a weekend pass which triggered some downward interest in the event. Having a $2 night, $5 night, $10 night, and $25 night might actually jack up attendance and interest as well as attract a more diverse group of acts.
Likewise having sponsors for each night could also up the talent ante; but to attract that hard fought after sponsorship you need a management team that can gain those sponsors and larger crowds are needed to attract larger sponsors.
The VIP tent has to go. Most festivals have beer stations and people can move around with their beverages now in Ontario. There’s no reason Lift Off can’t. Having the front rows only be for VIP’s is outright bad marketing. VIP’s deserve perks, but not ones that visibly take away from those that pay cash to attend the event.
The Lift Off Balloons need to fly over Cornwall. This fear of the US is utterly ridiculous. There are rules. Balloons can land in the US if they must. Educating volunteers, balloon crews and passengers is the key as well as having a liaison team between the event and US officials. One retired CBSA officer offered that this year but was refused.
People in Cornwall love Balloons in our skies during Lift Off. Having them in St. Andrews or Avonmore is not acceptable. And one should be tethered above the fest too. Because of the confusion the last few years the public essentially gave up with a total lack of sales this year and the event offering 2/1 discounts at the last minute that still had gondolas going up without paid clients.
Excuses do not make a great event; and this isn’t really about those that tried hard these last few years. Yes they can be criticized for not being more inclusive and playing petty Cornwall political games, but they all did work hard; just not smart.
The limited amount of resources and volunteers was because of an alienation created by how they operated.
That can and should change. There’s a total disconnect with Downtown businesses; some of whom even complain that Lift Off hurts their businesses. It might take people like Guy Menard to change how they think though, and it might take the business community of Cornwall to team up with City Hall and make sure that Lift Off is the only Festival in Lamoureux Park in July 2015.
What are your thoughts Cornwall? You can post your comments below.
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