Whitecourt’s newest outdoor rental space, Festival Way, is now completed at Rotary Park

·5 min read

The recently completed spot is made for public events such as markets and includes 18 10’x10’ stalls. Each stall features power to access, tent anchors, and a cement pad. The completely accessible walkway will hopefully house multiple events throughout the summer as more and more see the potential in the high foot traffic location.

During Monday's Policies and Priorities Meeting, the Director of Community Services, Chelsea Grande, said that aside from path tie-ins that might temporarily cause the space to be unavailable, Festival Way is ready for summer events. "Administration has reviewed and updated the Park Booking Form to now include Festival Way. This space, like some of the other spaces at Rotary Park and in our other parks as well, is available to book for non-exclusive use. Some areas have a fee attached, and others do not. The Community Services Advisory Board reviewed the Festival Way booking at their May meeting and recommended that this space have a rate attached to it compared to other event spaces in town. They are recommending that there be a rental rate of $525 with a damage deposit of $250 for the full festival way."

Those looking to book the space to hold a vendor's market or similar event would also need insurance. "With Festival Way policy 72-004 will need to be updated to include the requirement of insurance for special events. Currently, it just has insurance for structures such as tents, but since this will be more of an event space and there will be more people gathering because of the event that is going on, we think that special event insurance should be required," explained Grande.

With pandemic restrictions and different needs for cleaning/sanitation costs, the Community Services Advisory Board recommended that Council rent the space a bit lower for year one. "For the inaugural year, to promote the space, and with the additional costs that might be associated with COVID to host events, such as extra sanitizing supplies and signage, they are recommending that for 2021 there be a 50 percent discount on the rental rate."

Events at Rotary Way will need approval first and be "deemed appropriate," similar to the requirements in other rental agreements with the town. Those providing food service must also be approved. "To prevent a duplication of park concession services, food services aimed towards on-site consumption must be pre-approved," said Grande.

Councillor Ray Hilts said that he felt the reduced rate for this year was a great idea saying that it would help stimulate interest for future bookings. He then asked if the $525 rental fee was per event, regardless of it was more than one day in length or if it was per day. Grande explained that the rate was per day but quickly added that the fee covers ample space. "That is for all of the stalls, and there are 18 of them. We aren't looking at renting stalls individually. We want it to attract special events or markets where one organizer is organizing the event so that we are not just having an individual business opening up shop down there and renting out one stall."

Councillor Hilts then asked how it would work with Party in the Park. He was curious how a business would get a spot on Festival Way. "For our own events, we already have a process where vendors apply for them, and we coordinate them. We make sure there is a variety down there and won't be a duplication so that one vendor is selling out and the other is not," said Grande.

She said that they had already been contacted by someone who wants to hold a Metaphysical Market down at Festival Way. She explained that the main organizer is responsible for paying the town the rental fee, damage deposit, and getting insurance in place. "They will then organize the vendors and collect a fee for each stall off of the vendor." She said that the town would not be responsible for that part of the process, no different from renting a hall to hold a market. That organizer renting the space is responsible for making their money back by charging vendors for spots in the market space. An outdoor farmer's market is already potentially in the works, too, as Grande said an inquiry had been made.

Deputy Mayor Matt Connell couldn't contain his excitement. "I just think this is going to be awesome and is going to be a tremendous amount of opportunity. I think there's lots of opportunity for something like this. I'm pretty excited, and I think it's going to be cool." He asked Grande if an art show would be possible on Festival Way and how it would work. "Let's say someone wants to do an art show, or something like that, like some of the stuff we've seen at the Allan & Millar Centre, what would that look like? If it was a community-driven art show, even a pop-up, what would go on there with insurance and things like that?"

Grande explained that an art show could happen through the Arts Council, the Performing Arts Society, or even just through a group of local artists that want to get together. Whether it's an organized group or society, or a group of fellow artists, Grande said it was doable. "They can get together and decide how to divide the cost. There does not have to be 18 of them. It could be five of them, and they could decide what they would charge each other for the rental. But there would have to be one person that would pay the fee to the town as well as have the insurance set up for that day."

The Policies and Priorities Committee voted unanimously to recommend that Council accept the proposed bylaw changes and approve the fee structure and rental agreement for Festival Way. Whitecourt Town Council will have the opportunity to approve the recommendation at their next meeting.

Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press