Haweater Weekend a community festival, Little Current Lions reminds Northeast Town

1,800 person hours for small financial gains

LITTLE CURRENT—The final numbers are in for Haweater Weekend 2014, but despite major expense cuts by the weekend’s organizers, the Little Current Lions, the event is having problems staying afloat.

“We aren’t here to ask for anything, just to let council know how things are going and share the trend over the last few years,” explained Little Current Lions Club President Bruce Burnett to the Northeast Town council during a deputation last Tuesday. “A number of years ago, based on recommendations, we took Haweater in a more family oriented direction.”

Mr. Burnett shared that while this change in direction has received great feedback, it has affected the weekend’s profit margin with recent years bringing in next to nothing.

“We had a profit of $769.81, but that is up from the past few years,” he said.

“A few years ago we lost $3,000,” added fellow Lion Ed Bond.

“Have you looked at where you can cut?” questioned Councillor Bill Koehler.

“We really cut the entertainment last year, but in order to get people out we need to bring in good entertainment,” replied Mr. Burnett. “We only charge at the dance and things like Little Ray’s (reptile show), the rest of the events are open to the public.”

Mr. Burnett also explained that the Hawfest dance at the arena was way down this year.

“We were down by 300 people this year,” said Mr. Burnett,“which is significant.”

“We start organizing the event in October when we have to book some of the acts and between January and Haweater Weekend our 20 members and volunteers put in 1,800 hours of work,” continued Mr. Burnett. “It’s just a lot of work for the money we get. All the revenue generated throughout Haweater Weekend by the Lions is donated back into the community. The insurance is another thing that really kills us (costing $3,428 this year).”

Mr. Burnett said that vendors were also down this year, as it is “a hassle for them to set up in one location Friday night and then move downtown Sunday.”

“We would probably get more vendors if we were able to close the road (Water Street) Friday night so vendors could stay set up all weekend,” said Mr. Burnett, “It took us 10 years to get Sunday, so I’m not sure if that’s going to be possible.”

“Lay it on us Bruce, what do you need from the town?” asked Councillor Koehler.

“We just got our final numbers,” explained Mr. Burnett, “so this is just information, but something needs to change moving forward if we want to keep Haweater Weekend alive.”

“This is all worth thinking about,” said Northeast Town Al MacNevin. “Everything the Lions do goes back into the community and we would really like to help you find a solution. Please go back and talk with your fellow Lions about what could help and we will think on it as well.”

The Lions Club Haweater Weekend, now in its 47th year, is the largest festival on Manitoulin Island and attracts visitors from all over Ontario and across the country. The average year attendance exceeds 18,000 people, in addition to the economic benefits to the community topping $2,000,000. There are economic spin offs for the entire Island as well, with visitors travelling to other communities during their visit.