With some big events not returning to Whistler in 2020, the resort's Festivals, Events and Animation (FE&A) programming is taking on a new look.
Big summer tentpoles like Ironman Canada, Wanderlust and Tough Mudder will be absent from this year's schedule, while a pair of new events—The Back Forty and the Whistler Vegan Fest—will get Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) funding for the first time.
The total FE&A budget for 2020 is worth $3.16 million, and includes funding for 15 events produced by third parties (known as Attract, Retain, Augment events in FE&A terms—or ARA for short)
"You might notice that, compared to 2019, the ARA investment is lower, and the original investment is higher. That is part of our strategy to reduce investments in third-party-produced events and grow our investment in original programming," said FE&A manager Bob Andrea at the March 3 council meeting.
In past years, Ironman represented the biggest slice of the FE&A pie (including $282,000 in 2019).
But with the triathlon heading back to its Penticton roots in 2020, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival is 2020's biggest recipient with a grant of $200,000 (up from $170,000 last year).
Other ARA events to get funding in 2020 include: Cornucopia ($50,000), the Whistler Film Festival ($45,000), the RBC GranFondo ($40,000), Whistler Vegan Fest ($36,000), a photo festival at the Audain Art Museum ($30,000), Whistler Pride and Ski ($25,000), Whistler Cup ($25,000), Whistler Children's Festival ($22,500), Whistler Writers Festival ($18,750), the Whistler Half Marathon ($15,000), Whistler Village Beer Festival ($15,000), Whistler 50 and Ultra ($12,000), Crankworx ($10,000) and the Back Forty ($5,000).
"Typically, third-party-produced events, some of them are from outside the community, and as we can note, some do not stay in Whistler for the indefinite period of time," Andrea said. "So it's important to make sure that we have programming that the RMOW is in control of producing."
The total investment in third-party events in 2020 is $549,250 (down from $811,750 in 2019) while the budget for original programming increased from $1.1 million in 2019 to $1,335,000 in 2020 (the overall budget of $3.16 million is the same as 2019, however).
The total budget also includes things like village animation, the festive lighting program, technology services and maintenance, marketing and human resources.
Original events on the 2020 calendar include GO Fest, the Canada Day parade and concert and the outdoor summer concert series, as well as the Whistler Holiday Experience and New Year's Eve programming.
"I wish to take this opportunity to assure you that the 2020 FE&A planning process has once again been rigorous, comprehensive and evidence based ... the oversight committee is keenly aware of the importance of delivering both immediate and long-term value when investing in FE&A programs," said committee chair Sue Adams.
"I'm very satisfied that the 2020 FE&A planning process has been conducted with the utmost integrity."
Councillor Cathy Jewett, who sits on the FE&A committee, said the focus this year is on filling in the gaps.
"A lot of the information we look at is where are the peaks and valleys in our visitation? What times of year do we need to boost visitation, and will these events do that?" she said.
"By having large events not coming back, or not using as much funding, we're able to shift the funding to the times of year that we need to even out the visitation so that the businesses remain viable, people stay employed, (and we're) keeping the resort humming."
To that end, a new homegrown initiative is being planned for the fall, though it's too early in development to share any details.
"It's very secretive at this point—more to come later in the year," Andrea said.
The FE&A program was launched in 2013 to "provide a coordinated and targeted cultural offering" for Whistler, according to the RMOW.
While it was originally funded with provincial Resort Municipality Initiative money, the program is now paid for using Municipal and Regional District (also known as the hotel tax) funds.
Find more info at www.whistler.ca/culture-recreation/events-festivals/program-information.