By Spencer Seymour
The St. Marys Town Council has approved a one-day event proposed by HG Media and The HUB, a restaurant in Stratford, called 'St. Marys End of Summer Bash'.
The event will take place at Milt Dunnell Field and will run from 12:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 3rd. According to representatives from HG Media, the current plan for the event would include a classic car show in the form of lining the ring of The Flats with classic cars. They also are looking to have a small stage with live music featuring local artists. There would also be a local craft vendor market, a small beer tent with Heritage Hopps Brewery of Stratford, a food truck from The HUB, and children's attractions such as face-painting, balloon artists, and a bubble machine.
Lauren Thompson, HG Media's Events Coordinator, spoke to a question about some of the proposed vendors not being based out of St. Marys. Thompson indicated that there might be room for changes to who the specific vendors are, saying that the event itinerary put forward was "a starting point".
A lengthy discussion preceded the eventual approval of the municipal significance designation for the event due to several concerns from Councillors. There were concerns that the proposal was rushed as there was no report by Town Staff regarding the proposal. Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer explained that the reason for the seemingly rushed nature of the proposal wasn't the fault of the applicant. Instead, Kittmer said that the Town staff would have had time to prepare a report had it not been for the cybersecurity incident that took place two weeks ago. There were several other parts of the agenda package for last Tuesday's Council meeting that didn't have staff reports which were unable to be completed due to the cybersecurity incident and the amount of work needed to resolve that by staff.
There was also trepidation for several Councillors about giving this proposal the "event of municipal significance' designation as not everyone was convinced that this indeed demonstrated a significant event for St. Marys. Kittmer again addressed this concern with several main points, the first being that the term 'event of municipal significance' isn't as binding as some of the Councillors were concerned it was. That designation is required by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) in order for an event to obtain a liquor license. If Town staff had waited until the next Council meeting on August 16th to bring this forward, they would have been able to provide a full report along with the presentation but the event's organizers wouldn't have enough time to secure a liquor license from the AGCO.
Kittmer then explained the main reason he supported bringing this forward, talking about what the "unintended consequences of saying 'no'" might be.
"When you look at our Strategic Plan, it talks about reenvisioning Milt Dunnell Field and it talks about bringing events like this to Milt Dunnell Field and making it the place that we bring tourism in," Kittmer said. "I'd encourage (the Councillors) to think about the consequences of saying 'no' would be. Yes, we don't have all the details and it's a little rushed, but if we don't look like a place willing to host events like this when they come up, that word gets out very quickly. At the staff level, we feel we have enough information to see this go forward as successfully as it can and we're committed to working with the organizers of this event to make sure it goes smoothly. We view it as being aligned with what we want to do with Milt Dunnell Field and a neat, new thing to do for our residents."
Mayor Al Strathdee then commented on the proposal, saying that at first, he had concerns about it as well. However, as he thought more about it, he began seeing more and more upside in moving forward with it.
"The reality is we did support a different concert at The Flats with municipal funds. These people aren't asking us for any money. This is an event trying to attract people to town for seven hours in a day, and when we attract people to town, as we all know, there are positive impacts for other people and businesses."
The discussion seemed to sway the majority of the Councillors onto the side of the proposed event, with all but one member of the Council present at the meeting voting in favour of moving forward with the proposal.