Tall ships event aids success of Lunenburg’s folk harbour fest

by Keith Corcoran

  • <p>KEITH CORCORAN PHOTO</p><p>From left, Julie Lobb, Robin Scott and Angela Saunders were among presenters giving an overview recently to town council about Lunenburg&#8217;s tall ships event in August.</p>

Lunenburg's Folk Harbour festival struck new revenue milestones thanks to the music event sharing an August stage with the tall ships celebration in town during the same weekend.

The combination established what can be described as a pattern of how Lunenburg can be even more successful, noted Deborah Watring-Ellis, given the music festival's initial worry that it was somehow competing with a much larger, free event.

"This year we sold out many of our events," Watring-Ellis, the folk harbour festival's president, told a September 12 meeting of town council. "We broke all our sales records."

Daily event and overall festival passes sold like hot cakes.

"By all measures in our world what we thought was going to be a competition that might hurt our festival got us exposed for the first time to many new festival-goers who we believe will return and spend more money and more of their vacation more of their time more of their energy volunteering in our community," Watring-Ellis said.

A dozen ships from various countries docked along Lunenburg's waterfront between August 10 and 12, while the folk harbour festival ran August 10 to 13.

Tall ships organizing committee representatives recently presented a report to town council outlining how events transpired and lessons learned.

Angela Saunders of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, told council that vessel captains felt Lunenburg was the "best port."

Crowd attendance estimates have the final number just shy of 15,000 but Saunders believes it's larger because just one gate was counted. The figure also doesn't include people attending fireworks or coming into the tent, she said.

Meanwhile, the business community believes visitors to the town need more encouragement to explore beyond the self-containment of a festival. A majority of local businesses surveyed were dissatisfied with revenues, council heard.

Pamela Baltzer of the Lunenburg Board of Trade said other take-aways included a feeling that town residents need to be further swayed to participate in local events as it appears, she indicated, people have a tendency to stay away if the town is swarmed.

Survey results supported closing more streets during large events. Visitors sought more printed information and commemorative posters. The board of trade is banking images and video for an open source library that will be used in future marketing and promotion.

Online interactions and the social media presence associated with the tall ships event proved successful, the business group said.

Robin Scott, site committee chairman for the Lunenburg tall ships event, suggested portable washroom facilities and parking needs were met. "Better to have too much than not enough," Scott told council about the parking scenario. Some under-used port-a-potties from the middle of town were moved to the waterfront.

Lunenburg's mayor, Rachel Bailey, told LighthouseNOW the town had the capacity, was prepared for events and she was pleased to learn of the success of tall ships and folk harbour.

Bailey was also surprised to learn from the presentation that motorists didn't take full advantage of the parking opportunities.

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