Supercrawl gets money after all, but city will look at helping 3 smaller festivals

Supercrawl will get $250,000 after all in a new round of provincial funding, but three other Hamilton festivals will still come up short. Now the city is looking at whether or not it should help.
The RBC Canadian Open held two concerts in Ancaster as part of the event this year, and received $250,000 in Celebrate Ontario funding. (Golf Canada)

Supercrawl will get $250,000 after all in a new round of provincial festival funding, but three other Hamilton festivals will still come up short. And now the city is looking at whether or not it should help.

The popular downtown festival was initially denied Celebrate Ontario money this year, but the province came through with $250,000 at the last minute. Submissions by Festival of Friends, FrancoFest and the Because Beer craft beer festival are still on the list of denials.

"After weeks of lobbying the government we are pleased to see the positive result of having our funding reinstated for 2019 festival," said Tim Potocic, Supercrawl's organizer. 

A new report suggests city council could help those festivals denied the funding by easing up on fees it charges around parking, road closure permits and traffic detour signs, among other services.

"There are sections/divisions that have fee waivers in place or absorb the expense of these events in their operating budgets, including bylaw and HSR," says the report, which city council's emergency and community services committee will discuss Aug. 15.

The Festival of Friends at Gage Park, for example, pays $23,274 for municipal services every year. That includes food vendor forms and public health inspections, and a $3,636 park permit, as well as $3,000 for labour and material from the parks and cemeteries division. All of these costs are negotiable, the report says. The $6,772 it pays for paid duty police officers is the only cost that isn't.

Ancaster Heritage Days, which was also denied Celebrate Ontario funding, pays for $4,227 in municipal services. 

Some councillors reached Friday say they're open to looking at negotiating some of the costs. Tom Jackson, Ward 6 councillor, said because the Celebrate Ontario funding was denied at the last minute, he'd only consider it for this year.

"I will support the waiving of all the city costs for municipal services they would normally pay for 2019 only," he said.

"They indicated to me they were grateful and would allow them plenty of time to fund raise and close the gap, hopefully for 2020."

Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor, said he'd support helping if it didn't impact the tax levy. Brad Clark, Ward 9 councillor, says before he considered it, "I would like to see reports on how the organizations mitigated the impacts and review their financial statements."

Celebrate Ontario funding is granted to new projects, often that are part of existing festivals and events. The winning projects have to create and support jobs and the economy and draw tourists. 

It's not clear how much Celebrate Ontario funding has been cut. The province has changed how it reports its funding, now breaking it down into a general stream and "blockbuster" allocations. It initially appeared $7 million had been cut from Celebrate Ontario's budget, but the province also touted a $4 million investment for large-scale events through the fund. Then the province announced it was walking back about $2 million in cuts.

FrancoFest applied for Celebrate Ontario money this year and was denied. (Centre Français Hamilton/Facebook)

With Supercrawl getting money now, Hamilton events will see $831,119 this year, which is an increase from $640,920 last year, the report shows. Much of that increase, and then some, went to the RBC Canadian Open, which was in Ancaster this year and received $250,000 from Celebrate Ontario.

Tournament director Bryan Crawford said the allocation brought a lot to the golf event, and also to Hamilton. It helped pay for a Hamilton Fare Way, which included culinary offerings from nine local restaurants, plus two nights of concerts. 

With Celebrate Ontario money, he said, "there's never a guarantee."

The enhancement led to an attendance increase from 75,000 people in 2018 to 120,000 people this year, Crawford said. The next RBC Canadian Open is in Toronto, followed by British Columbia.

As for the Hamilton applicants, Festival of Friends received $49,700 last year, FrancoFest $42,756 and Because Beer $60,000. All were denied funding this year.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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