The Summerfest organizers did it again. The mid-summer festival organized by three downtown businesswomen last year, returned for its second edition on Saturday of the Civic Holiday long weekend, and the large crowds who filled the downtown and waterfront area were a testament to the fact that Summerfest is already a much anticipated summer event in just its second year.
It’s not easy to get a new community event off the ground. It is even more of a challenge to create and stage an event that people want to see return a year later, but Summerfest has clearly appealed to many who appreciate a mid-summer festival to liven things up.
It is often assumed that such events are organized and hosted by municipalities, but municipal governments are not in the event business. To stage such an event requires regular citizens, in this case a handful of downtown business owners, to roll up their sleeves and get to work. All of our favourite events, with the exception of Canada Day, are created, organized, and driven by volunteers, people who love their community and want to create some fun for their neighbours and friends.
The amount of work put into the organization of the Summerfest event is no doubt enormous, but the impact of the event on the business district of this municipality has been clear: the event draws crowds, large crowds, and large crowds spend money, and in a small municipality, that is a very good thing indeed.
I think that one of the keys to the success of the event in its first two years is that it is simple, it is fun, and there is no cost to simply attend and take it all in.
Another key to the success of the event has been the creation of fun rivalries between local restaurants which competed in the poutine competition. Though personally I have never consumed poutine, it just does not appeal to me. I am well aware that I am in the minority and it is loved by many, and challenging restaurants to create their own take on the iconic dish is a bit of genius in my opinion. People love food of course, but they also love competition, and the poutine competition serves up both.
The addition of an air show this year was extremely popular with Summerfest attendees, as I heard from many throughout the weekend.
I was pleased to see the return of artists painting doors along Sykes Street. Though we have some beautiful buildings in our downtown, the century-old structures can benefit from a bit of colourful flair, and painting the solid doors that provide access to the upper floors of those buildings is an inexpensive way to spice things up a little.
While taking a stroll on the Georgian Trail on Saturday afternoon, a family walking toward me recognized me from seeing my photo in the newspaper, and they stopped to say hello. They were visiting Meaford from the Hamilton area, and they told me that they had come to Meaford for the entire Civic Holiday long weekend, specifically to attend Summerfest. They had been in Meaford by chance during last year’s inaugural event, and were so impressed with last year’s Summerfest that they planned a full weekend getaway in this municipality a year later.
The family said that they had found an Airbnb in town that was close to the downtown area, allowing them to leave the car and explore Meaford on foot.
They were thrilled with the addition of the air show, which they all said they enjoyed very much, and after their afternoon hike on the Georgian Trail, they told me they had plans for a visit to the Meaford Museum before enjoying a dinner on a patio downtown.
I encouraged them to take some of their weekend getaway to explore the rural areas of this municipality, and offered them some suggestions for a nice drive in the country before we parted ways.
That is the power of events like Summerfest; a family from 200 kilometres away planned a weekend getaway to the Municipality of Meaford, based on their happenstance experience at the inaugural event a year ago. As a result, they happily spent their hard-earned money at restaurants and retail stores in Meaford, and I have no doubt that they have or will tell their friends of their experiences here, and recommend that they visit too.
For those who love community events like Summerfest, there are more on the way, as the Meaford & St. Vincent Fall Fair is fast approaching, as is the return of the Scarecrow Invasion & Family Festival, so there are more community festivities on the way before the chill of winter returns.
The organizers of Summerfest should be applauded, and they have been, and will no doubt continue to be. The buzz on social media after Saturday’s events was one of appreciation, along with an excitement to see the event return again next year.
For the first 16 years that I have lived in this municipality there has been no Summerfest, and now after two successful Summerfests, I can’t imagine Meaford not having this mid-summer festival. I hope that it returns again next year, and that it becomes a staple in this community for years to come.
So many thanks to the organizers for a job well done. The success of this event for the second year in a row shows that it is both wanted and needed by this community, visitors to this community, and the local businesses who benefit from the event, not just with increased sales, but through building a stronger connection with their community.