May long weekend to get its own festival 

FE&A program grows to more than $3 million

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF TOURISM WHISTLER/MIKE CRANE - More in May Whistler council released $1.2 million of RMI funds to start planning 2014 programming in the resort.
  • Photo Courtesy of Tourism Whistler/Mike Crane
  • More in May Whistler council released $1.2 million of RMI funds to start planning 2014 programming in the resort.

Whistler's festivals and events budget is getting a sizable boost with a major investment into programming for the May long weekend and the upcoming winter season.

That problem May long weekend is getting a $290,000 investment in the hopes that there will not be a repeat of last May long weekend where crowds of young adults caused problems throughout the village. Much like the way Whistler reinvented New Year's Eve, once traditionally plagued by problems and now billed as a family-friendly First Night event, the May long weekend is set to get an image makeover with a new festival focus. It will be aimed at kick-starting Whistler's summer season."It's going to be developed from the ground up by all the partners here in Whistler," said Mike Furey, municipal chief operating officer.

When asked what that means for the future fall festival, which was also set to be a homegrown Whistler event to weather the end of summer shoulder season Furey said:"We haven't eliminated the idea of a fall festival but for 2014 we're focused on the May festival."

A further $180,000 is going to the winter season for things like added animation and programming around the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

In his presentation to council, John Rae, manager of strategic alliances, outlined the correlation to Whistler's record-setting room nights this past summer and the $2.6 million Festivals, Events & Animation program."We are contributing to the overall growth in occupancy," said Rae, adding that there are many other things contributing to that too.

He has asked council to maintain that level of FE&A commitment with the additional commitment to winter and May taking the FE&A budget to $3.1 million. "The May long weekend I totally agree that we've got to do something there," said Councillor John Grills. But he questioned Rae about the winter investment.The plan, explained Rae, is to create a bigger animation program in the winter, expanding from one night to two nights and from eight weeks to 15 weeks of programming.

Councillor Jack Crompton said he would like to see more summer marketing targeted at the winter guests in an effort to draw them back to Whistler."I'm encouraged by the success that we've had with the in-resort marketing," he told Rae.

On Tuesday, council released $1.2 million from Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) reserves to begin planning for the 2014 programming.

That early funding, said Rae, will help investments in the early part of the year, and they will be able to invest in preferred dates."We want to make sure that we've got the pick of the litter," said Rae.

The Economic Partnership Initiative report also carries several key recommendations for the FE&A program.

Among the recommendations are:

• work with corridor local governments, key stakeholders and local First Nations to develop or coordinate a corridor "major event" schedule/strategy;

• evaluate business plans for additional festival opportunities;

• expand key existing, smaller-scale, authentic Whistler community events such as the turkey sale, WORCA bike swap, ArtWalk;

• actively work to attract additional "world-scale" events;

• explore additional product development opportunities at Whistler Olympic Plaza as well as throughout the village.

Speaking of Olympic Plaza

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