By Alyson Queen –
Westboro FUSE, the newly revamped street festival that replaced Westfest, is being overhauled only a year after it was launched.
The Kitchissippi Times has confirmed that the Westboro BIA recently decided to split the large, three-day festival into smaller events spread out over three or four weekends, starting this year. The decision was made at the BIA’s recent AGM.
Dr. Dan Hwang, Chair of the Westboro BIA, said in an interview that while the notion of Westboro FUSE wasn’t being cancelled completely, the final plans haven’t been finalized and are still being developed.
Why the change? Weather and finances are playing a key role.
“Having Westboro FUSE over one weekend was always a gamble since the weather dictated the success of the event. By spreading it out over several weekends, we are hedging our bets and giving visitors more reasons to come to Westboro Village,” says Dan.
Instead, the BIA is now looking at holding smaller events over the course of the year that have different themes, including fashion, food and outdoor activities.
“Each weekend will be themed differently, celebrating the diversity of our members,” says Dan.
Although he did not disclose the exact deficit, Dan confirms that there was a financial shortfall from the 2016 event and the BIA isn’t willing to incur that for future events.
“Last year our festival producers did not meet all of their financial commitments,” says Dan.
For that reason, the BIA is still throwing around ideas on how to structure and manage the event.
At first blush, it seems unfortunate to not have a big weekend street festival for the community to look forward to, particularly during this year’s Canada 150 celebrations.
There hasn’t been much engagement yet on the changes, but one BIA member thinks the new format could be for the better.
“It’s a new spin, which I’m actually excited about. We need things throughout the year as a BIA. As a retailer, it’s nice to have little events rather than one large event,” says Sheba Schmidt. Sheba is the owner of West End Kids and was on the BIA’s FUSE task force in 2016.
Asked whether she will continue to be involved, Sheba says “that’s the only task force where I’m giving my attention. I loved FUSE last year, barring the weather.”
Although the intent is to draw people to the area, some business owners love it and others weren’t impressed, citing that it doesn’t always bring in new customers and can turn away existing clientele.
A survey of members revealed a “split with [those] who did benefit from the  festival and those who did not,” says Dan.
Dave Neil from the Piggy Market is taking more of a wait and see approach.
“My hopes for the festival are that it brings more business into the area. Maybe splitting it up, making it smaller, focusing on other things will help,” he says.
The Westboro FUSE website, westborofuse.com, is still up and running as of this story’s release, but only with 2016 information. No 2017 dates had been added.
Both Dan and Sheba indicate that the hope is to have something in place for the weekend which would have been reserved for the large Westboro FUSE festival.
At this point though, it is not known when those plans will be confirmed.