Guy Menard Confirms Possible Demise of Lift Off Balloon Fest in Cornwall at WFC Meeting – July 20, 2014

waterfront carr lang menardCORNWALL 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.

Jeff Brunet of Alkaline Entertainment with Rene Martin of King Street Percussion
Jeff Brunet of Alkaline Entertainment with Rene Martin of King Street Percussion

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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  1. Some of you may know that I don’t always agree with everything Jamie says. But in this case I think he’s spot on.

    In regards to sponsorship I find less and less is available. I think companies are finding it tougher to justify sponsoring events as money becomes tighter and tighter.

    I think Lift-Off needs to revamp their admission policies. They said it was cheaper this year. But all I heard about was the weekend pass, no mention of a daily ticket.

    They need to have the balloons lift off from Lamoureaux Park. This is a Cornwall event, not a St. Andrews or Avonmore based event.

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    Hugger I’d hate to live in a world where everyone agrees with each other.

  3. Agreed.

    I think Lift-Off has to be looked at from top to bottom if it is to continue.

    I think Lift-Off and Ribfest should look at possibly combining their events. I know the Kinsmen and Lions Club probably don’t want to do that. But for both festivals to survive and thrive changes have to be made.

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    Hugger they are two very different events. They should not mix; but there’s nothing that stops LO from having better vendors and even rib sellers. I was told by several vendors that they had to choose between either event; that if they went to LO they could not be at Ribfest.

    Again, LO should be about promoting our community and bringing in tourists. It’s not about making money. It should break even at best with maybe a little extra for growth.

  5. I agree to a point. I guess now I see your article on having them so close to each other is not good. I feel LO is on crutches and the mean kid is about to kick the crutches out from him.

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    Hugger I have written clearly years ago that it was boggling that St. Jean sur Richelieu’s Balloon fest would be bigger than Cornwall’s? We have a better location; better opportunity; simply we lacked the vision and leadership. Lift Off has gone down hill since Chris Savard left. That’s not an endorsement for him; it just shows how lacking the event was in leadership. It simply has not been able to adjust to Ribfest which actually is pretty easy to do.

    At its simplest all LO had to do was add ribs and/or better food and change up its revenue scheme. Instead of meeting the challenge LO collapsed.

  7. I agree 100%. Lift-Off needs to get back to its basics, redefine itself. It needs to realize and optimize it’s annual opportunity. No need to reinvent the wheel.

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    Hugger all it needs is a management team that puts the event and our city ahead of petty personal politics. IF they do that things should work out just fine 🙂 Btw, last year, like the year before I offered to join the Lift Off board. I sent Mr. Jesmer another email Sunday offering to do so for next year again.

  9. First let me say that I agree that lift off needs a face lift from the top down.

    Management has to step up, and take the blame for what did not work this year, and not for what went well.

    There was a survey done last year after the event, and many good ideas were given. But! Some of the ideas were attacked on the local radio by a commentary. Putting down the idea of lower prices, better bands etc. That really turned me off of lift off. You ask for my input, then do that. Really!

    there are many changes that could be made to improve it. I say go back to the grass roots of the festival, and start over. Clean slate for 2015. Listen to the sponsors. Listen to the fans. Listen to the people that make the trip into Cornwall.

    I worked for companies that sponsored the event in the past. But why did they get for it. Passes for the event. Passes to the VIP event and VIP tent. Beer. And more beer.But what return did we get. Very little. May be a few calls where people said we seen you at lift off.

    Now my last rant. Why attack another event in the park that does well for the Lions club. Yes Ribfest. Both events should be able to survive. All depends on how they are run.
    Yes you say there is no charge. Lift off started out free as well, or did you forget that. Yes they offer good local entertainment. Yes they offer good food. Yes they offer rides and local people a place to display their items. Yes they get more people in the gate. But now you have to answer WHY?

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    BBQ Kevin Rib fest is for local “consumption” It’s a travelling show and is not really a tourist attraction. It’s success in Cornwall in my opinion is because of the failure of Lift Off. That being said I have nothing against the event and think that it simply should be in in June or August if they wish to hold it in Lamoureux Park. It just makes good $$ sense for both the city and the community. The fact that Rib Fest ran ads during Lift Off clearly shows that its organizers feel it has to “compete” with Lift Off and for us in the city that’s nuts as Cornwall needs Lift Off to attract people.

    Btw, you made some other great comments and that’s what I’m talking about by being inclusive. It’s not rocket science. LO has hundreds of volunteers. Were they polled about what they want from the event? Their labour is of greater value than the price of a ticket.

    Lift Off should be about our community throwing a big old party that not only is for us; but invites outsiders in.

  11. Oh I agree that ribfest is more vending then liftoff, But there is no reason that they both cannot coexist in July. It caters to 2 different groups of people. Yes there is some like me that support both.

    Yes there was advertising for ribfest during lift off, but also there was not a lot of advertising for lift off before or during lift off. Not sure why, but anyway. Also radio advertising is up to the radio to decided when to sell a spot etc. Not the lift off or city to decide.

    Was it is bad taste. Maybe. But again it falls on the radio as to when they sell spots on the air.

    Have you ever listened to another radio station when there is another event on? They always plug the other fairs, events etc, whether in there city or not . It is good tourist marketing.

    I also heard rummers of cornfeast coming back. That will be something else to contend with if it does.

    One good thing from this years Lift off is that they were posting more updates about launches. The downside is, they should remember that it is a public forum. The volunteers doing have to be careful what they say on it. But that is a whole other debate. Me I am no longer allowed to comment for some reason. Oh well

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    Kevin it’s common sense. Both events want the biggest crowd possible. Over half of Cornwall is on fixed incomes or low wages and simply don’t have the extra bucks to enjoy both events in the same month. Seeing that LO was there first and is city driven then should get July in the Park.

  13. Lift-Off needs to figure out what it wants to do and how to do it. It has lost its way and needs to fin it again.

  14. If they both are successful then I see no issues with them both using the Park in July.

  15. Hugger1 they both could be successful, But right now liftoff has lost its way from balloons and good value for the people attending.

    Yes there is many other issues for Cornwall to overcome, but even if there was only one festival, they would have the same problems. Low wages in the area. people not wanting to travel out of the city or to the city.

    I was talking to someone on the weekend, and they wondered why the 2 events don’t form one supper event for Cornwall. Imagine ribfest and liftoff as one big supper event in the park. Yes the profits would be spread out, but how is that different then now? I know it would never happen. That would mean cooperation. Instead the two groups would rather battle to the end.

    I also have a question. Cornwall says it has every thing. But why is it that you drive in town after 9 and the streets and city hot spots are dead? Some restaurants seem dead, and even the bars. This is summer time now. It should be alive 4 or 5 days a week. Yes I know. People work etc, but what about all the tourists?

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    Kevin how can when we have tourists when our tourist bureau is a cronyism gig that boycotts the largest export media in the city?

  17. @bbq_kevin…I suggested to Jayson Jesmer that the two festivals merge. But neither seem interested. I can see why Ribfest doesn’t want to do it. They are a free festival and would like to stay that way.

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    Hugger it’s easy enough for LO to simply add more food vendors including ribbers. Or…actually engage area restaurants to participate in the park!

  19. I find the park crowded for both Lift-Off and Ribfest. Adding more vendors would make the park seem even more crowded.

  20. @ Hugger. Nobody goes to these events anymore because they are always too crowded.

  21. By crowded I mean vendor wise.

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