Tourism operators say visitors seeking 'hands-on' experiences

Festivals are looking to grow during the shoulder season as more visitors to Prince Edward Island are increasingly looking for unique or unforgettable experiences as part of their visit.

Festivals increasingly geared towards visitor participation as part of P.E.I. experience

More events are being scheduled outside of the busy summer months to attract visitors looking for unique experiences. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

It was overcast and raining when Cheryl Foster woke up and gathered her gear for a paddle in a kayak under the Confederation Bridge by Borden-Carleton, P.E.I.

Foster was one of the participants of the second Sea the Coast Paddle Festival, an example of a "hands-on" experience tourism workers say visitors are increasingly seeking. 

"A little chilly but we dressed appropriately for the weather conditions and it was really awesome," Foster said.

"It was spectacular, even with the fog and a bit of the rain."

Paddlers took part in a sunrise paddle underneath the Confederation Bridge as part of the Sea the Coast Festival (Submitted: Central Coastal PEI)

"People are ... increasingly looking for more hands-on experiences so this festival provides that," said Peggy Miles, tourism development manager with Central Coastal PEI.

"This morning we had our sunrise paddle, pretty magical, they kayaked under the Confederation Bridge... You know that is a once in a lifetime opportunity for a lot of people."

The Sea the Coast Paddle Festival included a large cultural component with members of P.E.I.'s Mi'kmaq community teaching and performing.

"We had a smudging ceremony to start off the whole event and it adds so much and creates some dialogue and some opportunities for learning," Miles said.

Another festival taking place in Souris, P.E.I., on Sunday was the PEI Lobster Festival.

It included free tours of the Souris lighthouse, views of authentic fishing boats and a competition for six local chefs who created lobster rolls.

The winning chef walks away with the trophy, while spectators can buy the lobster rolls. 

"It is a festival to bring people in the shoulder season of the lobster and the tourism," said Wallace Rose, the sales and marketing director for the PEI Lobster Festival.

The PEI Lobster Festival in Souris, P.E.I., included a lobster roll challenge for six local chefs competing for a trophy, while the spectators get to purchase the dishes. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

Rose expects to see around 2,000 visitors at the one-day event, which includes the free afternoon activities and a ticketed evening dinner.

"We have visitors here from British Columbia, from Ontario, Alberta, the United States. We have sold some tickets to people in Europe that were coming to stay for a couple of weeks," Rose said.

"Even though it is being held in Souris, and the eastern end of the island, we belive that it is promoting Prince Edward Island in general."

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