Pairing of festivals deemed a success

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>MICHAEL LEE PHOTO</p><p>Crowds gather to see the Tall Ships Regatta sail into Lunenburg. The busy weekend that saw Tall Ships and Lunenburg Folk Harbour Fest combine is being touted as a great success.</p>
  • <p>BRITTANY WENTZELL PHOTO</p><p>Cassie MacDonald of the duo Cassie and Maggie plays fiddle on the opening night of Folk Harbour Fest.</p>

While there was concern about potential mayhem in Lunenburg with the Folk Harbour and Tall Ships festivals coinciding at the same time, organizers are declaring the weekend highly successful, seamless, and inspiring for future activities.

Deborah Watring-Ellis, president of the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival Society, said the general feedback the group received from visitors was positive.

"They thought it worked like clockwork and was really, really smooth," she told LighthouseNOW.

"The general term we're hearing is 'surprisingly good results of having the two festivals together.'"

Town of Lunenburg Mayor Rachel Bailey described as "awesome" the preliminary figures she had indicating 15,000 people had been through to tour the tall ships, with still others happy to admire them from outside of the gated area.

"We were very excited.," said the mayor adding, "If we had had a third fine day I'm sure the number would have been even greater."

She praised the "wonderful collaboration" with the Folk Harbour Festival Society, which she described as "a well-oiled machine," as well as the Fisheries Museum, RCMP, first responders and the legions of volunteers who helped oversee everything from parking to information.

Bailey noted that parking had been one of the big concerns leading to the event, but the town had added 600 additional parking spaces in areas not traditionally used, such as the field behind the Lunenburg Academy and Hillcrest Cemetery, and that the shuttle service worked well.

The mayor said the Lunenburg Board of Trade's digital map helped some as well, although she says it would have been even more effective had there been more marketing of it to increase awareness.

"But, really, I think we did the best we could do and the congestion was not nearly as bad as people had anticipated it might be."

The Lunenburg Board of Trade (BoT) reported in an email after meeting with the different partners involved in organizing the two events that there was "a lot of positive feedback regarding the ample parking, way finding, the two different shuttle services (exterior parking to event drop-off and in-town shuttling throughout the business district), sufficient public washrooms and hand washing stations, and the additional food vendors to compliment our existing restaurants."

The group noted that analytics suggest that "many people" used the BoT's recently released digital map to plan elements of their visit in advance of arriving in Lunenburg.

"There were waits, of course, but they were not over long nor did it cause complaints among our guests."

Praise went out as well to the more than 40 volunteers, "ranging in age from 15-84 years old, who assisted our guests as ambassadors, waterfront safety, parking, site access, lost and found, messengers, and keeping the crew lounge readied for the 300 sailors from the visiting ships."

While the finally tally of folk festival ticket sales were not yet in, Watring-Ellis estimated sales went "well beyond" the maximum 3,200 the event has sold in the past.

"We sold out some portions and we had long lines and we had to turn some people away at a few venues. And while we're sorry to do that, the good news was there was such good attendance, and we're very, very pleased with that."

She agreed the shuttle service was instrumental in helping things run smoothly and said it's something the society would be looking to incorporate into its annual event with "minor tweaks."

Watring-Ellis added that, the systems put in place to handle washroom facilities, the shuttles and parking, "are things that can be used throughout the summer season for sure."

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