Volunteers from throughout Hants County are stepping up to the plate in hopes of breathing new life into Windsor's failing downtown festival.
It's certainly good news for the area, albeit a tad bittersweet.
The community is being asked to embrace yet another new name for the festival; something with a little more pizazz than the generic Windsor-West Hants Summer Fest moniker, but something far removed from the once popular and widely-known Sam Slick Days.
Windsor-West Hants Summer Fest replaced Sam Slick Days after a controversial image appeared on the 2008 event brochure that depicted a man of African descent on his knees crying out to Thomas C. Haliburton's fictional character Sam Slick. The image, which was taken at face value and not in context, ignited a fierce debate over whether the festival supported racism and ultimately resulted in the name change. The public had no say in the matter.
Despite countless community pleas to change the name back, VanEssa Roberts, who is helping rebrand and rebuild the summer festival, told a group attending the first meeting concerning the event that there is no way they will return to Sam Slick Days. It's too much of a sensitive issue.
Roberts indicated the town must move forward, not backwards, as they try to revitalize the struggling festival. She suggested that rebranding the event to coincide with the Avon Land of Plenty marketing strategy already being undertaken would be apropos.
The group bounced around a few ideas, and, as of press time, it appeared the name Avon River Fest was the leading contender.
It's certainly better than what we currently have, but not nearly as catchy as what we once had.
Still, the enthusiasm at the brainstorming meeting last week was a bit infectious, as people agreed to step up and help out any way they could.
The idea behind the revitalized festival is to link it to the outlying areas, promoting not only the events taking place in downtown Windsor, but encouraging visitors to tour the region. Whether sampling wine, touring an art gallery, or wandering through a sunflower or corn maze, there's certainly plenty for visitors to take in.
But in order to make this festival a success, it needs buy-in from the community. Any great festival must be for the community, by the community. As such, there needs to be more effort made to connect with all age groups and lifestyles, not just a select few, and a chance for the general public to provide feedback for any rebranding efforts.
Currently, the organizing committee is focusing its attention on social media, posting information about the upcoming meetings there. While it's true social networking sites are great at disseminating information — including incorrect information — simply posting on Facebook and hoping the word will spread is shortsighted. It's not community-oriented. It's excluding a segment of the population who have a lot to give.
After a struggling five-year run as the Windsor-West Hants Summer Fest, and amidst calls for the return of the old festival, it's wonderful we're making a move in the right direction. However, we must learn from the failed Windsor-West Hants Summer Fest. The public didn't buy into the renamed festival. A large part of the reason was because they didn't have a say. Before Avon River Fest becomes official, let's hope the public is given this chance. If not, we may very well see another festival flop — and that would truly be disappointing.