Carrotfest Friday under review
A highlight of Friday's Carrotfest event - The Twisted Ones, creating crazy balloon art for kids and adults, in the Bradford Carrotfest Kids Zone on August 18, 2017. Miriam King/Bradford Times/Postmedia Network
Town staff presented a review of CarrotFest 2017 last week. This year, the celebration included a Friday showcase of local businesses and free family fun.
The report concluded that both Friday and Saturday of Carrotfest were highly successful with between 3,500 and 4,000 people attending on Friday alone, enjoying the free KidZone, a beer garden and main stage on Simcoe Road, and the Back Alley Cruisers’ classic car and truck show and Legends Live tribute artists at the Courthouse.
“The only complaint in regards to the event that was brought to staff attention was in reference to the road closure on Friday,” which had an impact on the already heavy traffic flow through Bradford, the report stated. The concerns were termed “minor.” Staff suggested that better advance notice of proposed closures and detour routes could mitigate traffic issues, if council decides to continue with a Friday Carrotfest.
But for Michael Walsh, speaking in open forum, traffic concerns were anything but minor.
While applauding the decision to piggyback Friday’s event on Carrotfest to save money, he said that the biggest cost to the town was the “traffic chaos faced by thousands of commuters who were robbed of their families during this event.”
Geographical constraints funnel traffic from surrounding municipalities through Bradford, Walsh said. “All this adds up to a giant bottleneck.” He noted that solutions like the Bradford Link (connecting Hwy. 400 and 404), are at least a decade away. “We need to look at the steps we can take to ease traffic congestion in the meantime,” he said, calling the elimination of parking on Holland Street and banning heavy trucks from the main street “a step in the right direction. Shutting down our busiest street on a Friday afternoon is a step in the wrong direction.”
“The council will be definitely researching and looking at this further,” said Coun. Ron Orr. “We need to work it around, so we make it better for everyone.”
Deputy Mayor James Leduc praised the Friday event, calling it very well-attended, and said that feedback from local vendors had been positive. “I personally support the Friday night. I thought it was a successful event for our downtown businesses.”
Leduc did not support moving the event to Sunday, noting, “We’re still going to affect cottage traffic,” and adding that with any road closure, “you’re going to impact some people.”
Councillor Gary Baynes echoed Walsh’s concerns. “My biggest issue was traffic on a Friday night,” Baynes said, suggesting the town could consider another day, or another location. “I still feel we don’t have it nailed, as far as traffic. We have to do something different, if we have two days next year.”
There was a suggestion that only a handful of local businesses participated in the Friday festival. Council was told that 35 local vendors and businesses had booths, although only eight downtown businesses participated.
“I spoke with many residents. They were happy with the event,” said Coun. Raj Sandhu, but traffic was an issue, made worse by a serious collision on Green Lane. “Thank God for Marshview (Boulevard). It helped,” Sandhu said, suggesting there’s a need for downtown businesses to commit to participating, if the Friday event is to continue.
“Some of them said they missed the opportunity, and they will be there next year,” responded Leduc.
The report recommended opening up Carrotfest Friday to outside vendors, eliminating the refundable deposit demanded from Friday’s participants this year, and instead charging a reduced fee, of $20 for local vendors, $40 for non-local vendors. Saturday fees for Carrotfest would increase by $5 to $50 for local vendors, $70 for non-local to help cover the cost of the festival – estimated at $76,000, plus in-kind donations and staff time.
The bulk of the cost was covered by vendor fees and sponsorships; the town had a budget of only $9,000. Staff recommended adding $10,000 to the budget for 2018, to keep vendor fees low and cover staff overtime.
South Simcoe Police Sgt. Leah Thompson offered a recommendation to deal with the traffic issue. She suggested that two dedicated officers at the major intersections, Dissette/Bridge Street and Professor Day Drive/Holland West, could direct traffic and ease congestion, if Council approves a Friday road closure next year.
The report was received, and directed to the Downtown Revitalization Committee for review.
“We do have to tweak some things if we’re moving ahead with the Friday night Carrotfest,” said Mayor Rob Keffer, suggesting that a decision on Carrotfest Friday would take place at budget time.
As for the request for additional funds by staff, said Leduc, “Just because they ask doesn’t mean you give it to them.”