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Collingwood's Elvis Festival could be in private hands by 2020

A staff report going to standing committee tonight recommends discontinuing town operation of the Collingwood Elvis Festival after the 2019 event
Elvis Presley fans packed into the streets of Collingwood with their lawn chairs to get a good seat for the ETA performances over three days. Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

The Elvis Festival could end up in private hands, depending on the outcome of a council vote this month.

The Corporate and Community Services Standing Committee meets this evening, and part of the agenda is a discussion on the Collingwood Elvis Festival, which marks its 25th year this July.

The recommendation before the committee is to discontinue the Elvis Festival as a municipally managed event, and support its transition to a private operator.

According to a staff report being presented at tonight’s meeting, the town has been managing the festival since 2003, but from 1995 to 2002, the event was run by community volunteers.

In 2015, council approved a three-year plan to operate the festival, and approved another two years in 2017 to bring the festival to 2019 as a municipally managed event.

This year’s Collingwood Elvis Festival takes place July 26-28 in downtown Collingwood, but it is the final year for which funding has already been approved by council.

According to the staff report, data collected at the recent festivals shows a decline in both attendance and economic impact from 2016 to 2018. The statistics show a 49.6 per cent decrease in attendance with a 33.2 per cent decrease in individuals attending and a 46.4 per cent decrease in visitors (referring to those travelling 40 km or more to attend the event).

“The decrease in visitors is the most impactful given the primary objective of the festival, which relates to visitor spending,” states the report. “The trend in decreased attendance/individuals is attributed to an aging core demographic of Elvis Festival attendees, and increased costs to travel to and stay in Collingwood.”

According to the report, data collected shows visitor spending directly attributed to the Elvis Festival decreased from $917,000 in 2016 to $728,000 in 2018. However, visitor spending was estimated at $1.13 million in 2017.

“Given the trend in attendance and economic activity, we must acknowledge the current festival model is not a sustainable one without ongoing, additional funding,” states the staff report.

Ultimately, the Parks, Recreation, and Culture (PRC) department for the town of Collingwood is recommending the town discontinue managing the Collingwood Elvis Festival after the 2019 event.

The end may not be near for the festival, however, as the PRC department reported receiving an unsolicited report on Jan. 23, 2019, from an independent operator indicating they would like to assume management of the festival and operate it as a special event in Collingwood. Though it’s not clear who is offering to take over the festival, the staff report indicates the company has been “actively” involved with the festival since 2013.

According to the report, the proponent is proposing to keep the festival on the traditional weekend at the end of July and continue to operate downtown and as an Elvis Presley Enterprises licensed event.

The Corporate and Community Services Standing Committee meets tonight at 5 p.m. at the town hall council chambers. Since it is a committee meeting and not a regular council meeting, members of the public may attend and speak to agenda items.

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 13 years of experience as a local journalist
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