By Barb McKay
Organizers of the Lighthouse Blues Festival are aiming to establish the annual event as a major regional festival and tourist attraction.
The blues festival, which has grown annually over the past five years, is gearing up to an even bigger event this summer, according to a member of the organizing committee. Last year the Lighthouse Blues Festival attracted roughly 3,000 people, Brad Kirkconnell told Kincardine council during its meeting last Wednesday. This year, the goal is to draw 5,000 people.
“Last year, we made an effort to expand our advertising and I think we reaped the benefits of that,” he said.
Kirkconnell said that an economic impact study, conducted for last year’s festival, reported that 51 per cent of the people who attended had travelled more than 80 kilometres to be there. Non-locals who attended spent $277,180; $188,128 of which benefitted Kincardine’s economy.
A survey of downtown businesses found that 54 per cent experienced increased traffic on the weekend of the festival and 40 per cent saw increased sales. Nearly half the business owners indicated that they were asked more tourism-related questions than usual and 70 per cent of businesses stated that the festival is a worthwhile event.
This year, the committee is working with a budget of $100,000 to run the Lighthouse Blues Festival July 11 and 12. Performances will be held on the main stage, behind the Bruce Steakhouse both evenings. Kirkconnell said a number of activities held last year will be included again this year.
“The street festival was a huge draw, especially with the motorcycle show and shine and the British vintage car show,” he said.
There will be a stage on the main street where local youth can perform and a children’s art zone and an outdoor art exhibit. New to the festival this year will be music workshops, led by musicians participating in the festival.
Once again this year, the Kincardine Lions Club will assist with running the festival. Over the last two years, the Lighthouse Blues Festival has donated $20,000 to the Lions’ splash pad project.
“They are a really integral group to the blues festival,” Kirkconnell said. “They have a real army of volunteers and we really appreciate them.”
Council was quick to throw its support behind the festival.
“It’s been interesting to see this festival grow,” said deputy mayor Anne Eadie. “Last summer people were really, really enthused with the additions to the weekend.”
Councillor Jacqueline Faubert said the festival, along with other major events, including the Scottish Festival and Canada Day celebrations, make Kincardine a prime destination during the month of July.