Festivals, fairs and events in Hamilton are receiving $650,000 from the Ontario government to assist them in delivering innovative and safe experiences during the pandemic.
The funding was announced on August 4 by Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture. This funding is part of a $43 million dollar investment that was announced as a one-time increase to assist festival and events ensure their long-term sustainability after a year that has seen many of them struggle. The funding is more than double what is usually provided to the sector.
“For more than a year, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted tourism and culture – two major industries that bring people together and our communities to life,” said Minister MacLeod. “Increasing our annual support for festival and events will give the sector a much-needed boost as we continue to deal with the effects of COVID-19.
The Reconnect Festival and Event program, previously known as the Celebrate Ontario program, was developed to help festival and event organizers adapt to new public health measures with virtual, drive-through and other offerings. The $43 million in funding will be used to support 439 festivals and events throughout the province of Ontario.
In Hamilton, ten events received funding through the Reconnect program for 2021, including the AGH Film Festival ($75,000); Collective Arts Brewing Audio-Visual Presents ($48,174); Because Beer Craft Beer Festival ($30,000); Brott Music Festival ($60,000); Festival of Friends ($45,000); FrancoFest ($34,540); Hamilton Fringe Festival ($75,452); Winterfest ($35,000); Supercrawl ($200,000); Conservation Halton’s Winterlit at Mountsberg ($48,500). Nearby recipients also include Lincoln’s Niagara Conservation Authority’s Balls Falls Holiday Trail ($61,500); Crafted by Bench Festival ($144,299); Fall For Dance North ($99,690) and Burlington’s Sound of Music Festival’s Return to Live Series ($81,500).
Festivals and events that receive funding through the Reconnect program are able to spend their funding on expenses such as programming and production, marketing, mobile applications, website development and making sure health and safety measures are put in place to keep audiences safe; in general, most audience attractor-expenses are covered to assist organizations in building consumer confidence as the province recovers from the pandemic.
The tourism sector worldwide plummeted as a result of COVID-19. As a key economic driver in Ontario, the province’s sector was particularly hard hit. In 2018, the tourism industry supported more than 390,000 jobs and generated over $36 billion of economic activity for the province.
“The Reconnect Festival and Event Program has been an integral part of our industry’s ability to adjust to operating and innovating in a pandemic setting.” said Chris Bloore, President and CEO of the Tourism Association of Ontario. “In supporting existing events and helping to found new ones, this program is not only protecting Ontarians’ jobs, but also driving interest for visitors to return to Ontario to reconnect and experience what our communities have to offer.”
This investment of funding also includes $6 million to a category of Celebrate Ontario called “Blockbuster” events. This program supports municipalities and organizations in Ontario to host large-scale, high impact, major or one-time signature national or international events that draw significant tourist attendance and increase tourist spending, increase Ontario’s profile through media and broadcast exposure and have a proven significant economic impact. While there are no identified Hamilton events as recipients of this category of funding, it is estimated that the impact of the 2021-2022 Blockbuster and Reconnect Programs will generate over $1 billion in economic benefit throughout the province.