By Andrea Tomkins –
Westboro FUSE, the new summer festival scheduled to take over Richmond Road on June 10, 11 and 12, announced their lineup at an official media launch on April 19.
Dr. Dan Hwang of Westboro Station Dental, is the Westboro Village BIA (WVBIA) board chair. “It’s been a long time coming,” says Dan of the new street festival. “It brings everyone together and celebrates what makes Westboro unique.”
This year marks a return to a three-day festival. Evening events include music, comedy and stage performances.
Westboro FUSE festival producer, Trina Mather-Simard, outlined the schedule of events at the media launch.
“What we tried to do is re-envision the FUSE festival and bring it back to the street, make it about the members, make it hip and exciting, interactive and fun.”
The schedule is still evolving but festival-goers will be able to enjoy a craft beer garden, a 400-foot zip line down Richmond Road, President’s Choice SuperDogs shows, culinary demonstrations, fashion shows, and a fundraiser comedy night with Canadian stand-up comedian and actor, Mike MacDonald.
MEC has come on board as a first-time sponsor this year and they’re helping the community kick off the festivities with the MEC Westboro Mile on the evening of Friday June 10.
“The Westboro Mile is going to be a celebration of running,” says Chris Chapman, an outreach coordinator with MEC. The race is billed as an inclusive event for all ages and abilities.
Musical acts at Westboro FUSE will include Ottawa pop band, The Peptides, who will be performing a preview of their new CD as well as some favourite tracks. The Rebound Band and the Hi Fi Show Band from Montreal will keep the crowds moving with a dance party.
Performers of all kinds – musician, acrobats, “fire artists” – will fill up the street between Golden Avenue and the Superstore.
“There’s really going to be something for all ages down the whole street,” says Trina. “It’ll make it a really great family experience in the evening. The festival of fire will help ignite the street.”
Dovercourt Recreation Centre will be providing programming on the main stage during the day. Dovercourt will also host a “stay and play” zone so parents can drop off their kids with Dovercourt staff and enjoy some shopping and dining on their own.
Molly van der Schee, Westboro resident and owner of The Village Quire on Richmond Road, is looking forward to the new event, both as a parent as a business owner.
“I think there are definitely expectations when it comes to this new festival. I think that we all have high hopes, but it will be a challenge to follow Westfest because everybody loved it,” says Molly. “I think that the idea of FUSE looks awesome and amazing, but it’s going to take everyone rallying together to make it work.”
As a business owner, Molly says that although a street festival doesn’t necessarily showcase the stores, it does showcase the neighbourhood. She isn’t sure FUSE will result in extra retail sales because, as she says, festivalgoers aren’t necessarily shoppers.
“Westfest didn’t generate a lot of money for me, but I speak only for myself,” says Molly. “I know other businesses around me generated thousands of dollars at Westfest and in the months afterwards. For me, for those few days, I just look forward to seeing my friends and neighbours and other business owners.”
In terms of planning the street programming, for Trina Mathers-Simard, it was a matter of finding a few “anchors” that fit the WVBIA messaging and then building the partnerships on the street that made sense – like MEC.
“[WVBIA] research and studies really showed who was coming to the event, what they were coming to do and engage with, so it really helped inform us along the way,” says Trina. “We looked at the demographics and kind of pieced together what we thought would be appealing based on their surveys.
“We are trying to attract people in, but really we’re about making it a celebration about Westboro and what that lifestyle is all about.”
How did they address the Westboro stores who didn’t necessarily appreciate the crowds? “We thought we’d hear more of that,” says Trina. “I don’t know if it’s the reformatting that this festival is taking, they feel, I think, a lot more engaged…there’s been a really positive response on the street.”
In September 2015, the WVBIA decided to opt out of its title sponsorship deal with Westfest. Sheba Schmidt, the owner of West End Kids, was one of the merchants who spoke out about the loss of Westfest when it was first announced.
“I’m so excited,” says Sheba of Westboro FUSE. “What’s really exciting is that it’s actually given me that little push to start getting more involved.”
There was an opening on the WVBIA board. Sheba applied and was voted in recently. She’s now also on the task force for Westboro FUSE.
Ultimately, she chalks up last year’s shock and dismay to a communication problem.
“I’ve been involved in a summer festival here for 13 years, and it’s been enormously successful for my business. And I know it’s true for lots of other businesses,” says Sheba. “I believe we’re getting more of what my customers want.”
Patricia Barr, owner of Wall Space Gallery in Westboro, is happy with what she saw at the launch of Westboro FUSE.
“I think it’s great. I appreciate that this was a controversial thing, and having been part of the board I understand the logistics and how it came to be,” says Patricia. “I love the fact that they’re going to bring it back to the street. I think that’s important part of it.”
Patricia’s family also lives in the area. Although she says “change is always good,” one of the things she appreciates most is the location, which hasn’t changed. “I remember coming down with the whole family, it was the most exciting experience, to walk along the street and then sit down, get a beer, and get an ice cream.”
For more information – and to see the full schedule – go to westborofuse.com.
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