Gibsons council is studying a proposal to draw more visitors to the Landing by staging a regular street festival series.
The street festival feasibility study, prepared by the Best Coast Initiative (BCI) economic development agency, was developed as part of a five-year Gibsons Landing enhancement strategy adopted by council in April.
“The street festival concept in a nutshell is to establish Gibsons Landing as that charming, cool, funky place where there are regular festivals that include entertainment, good food, cultural engagement and family fun,” BCI’s Michael McLaughlin told council’s committee of the whole Nov. 13.
BCI estimated the annual cost of staging four festivals at $21,400, with $16,600 of that amount going towards a part-time festival coordinator position.
Based on conservative projections, McLaughlin said the series would bring $20,000 of new revenue into the town the first year and $50,000 after five years.
After 40 years, he noted, Saltspring Island’s festivals bring about $2.8 million a year into the local economy.
About half of the Landing merchants were surveyed for the study and of those, 80 per cent support the street festival concept, McLaughlin said.
“And the four or five who didn’t had specific reasons that could probably be mitigated” to bring them on board, he added.
Sherry Reid, who interviewed Landing merchants for the study, said they expressed a “very strong interest in working together” on the initiative and overwhelming support for a Town-funded event coordinator. That position, some merchants said, could be combined with a communications officer role.
Discussions are also taking place with organizers of the Gibsons Landing Jazz Festival about moving the event from Dougall Park to the street in front of Winegarden Park, which “could bring a kind of Bourbon Street or Mardi Gras feel to the Landing,” Reid said.
Coun. Gerry Tretick said he liked the Jazz Fest idea, as it might be “more doable” than adding more festivals and increasing pressure on the volunteer base.
Coun. Charlene SanJenko likewise pointed to the Jazz Fest as “a low-hanging fruit” for 2013 and said the challenge was “how do we best leverage” existing opportunities. “I hope we don’t get too focused on should the Town hire an event coordinator,” she added.
Coun. Lee Ann Johnson, however, said Gibsons “is too big now for volunteers to provide the consistency and connection” that a staff person could invest in the position, and Mayor Wayne Rowe concurred.
“I think we’re at a point where you have to have the go-to person — the one who’s the lightning rod,” Rowe said.
The study will come back to the committee for a recommendation later this month.