By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News
Cactus Festival’s focus will apparently move from downtown Dundas’ main street to the Dundas Driving Park, for the 38th annual event this August.
First year festival committee chair David Longo officially announced plans to relocate the event from King Street West to the historic park Friday, after meeting with Dundas city councillor Russ Powers.
Longo confirmed Monday there will not be any road closures for this summer’s Cactus Festival.
“The move allows the BIA merchants to conduct business as usual during the festival without competition from out-of-town vendors, eliminates road closures, parking and traffic issues in the downtown core,” he said.
Official City of Hamilton approval for this year’s Cactus Festival, including the significant changes, is still pending.
Longo suggested downtown business owners may not be 100 per cent behind the move, but he said the Downtown Dundas BIA as a whole is supportive of the changes. He said some businesses do better than others when roads are closed and vendors hit the street for the annual event.
The BIA is a separate organization and has no control over Cactus Festival planning.
But Longo said discussions are underway for programming options at Grafton Square and other locations. And there is no intention to relocate midway amusement rides from the downtown.
“They would like us to put some programming there to encourage people to come down from the park,” Longo said.
But a key for Longo is the infrastructure – including easier access to power, water and the permanent stage – in the Dundas Driving Park.
He noted the existing recreational amenities in the park, public washrooms, and sheltered picnic pavilions
“The street festival concept has been effective for many years,” Longo said. “However, as we continue to be a volunteer run, not for profit event, with a very limited budget, the existing street festival was becoming logistically and financially unsustainable. Costs for services and infrastructure continue to rise, forcing money out of programming.”
Now that he can focus on planning programming in the festival’s locations – he is working on new partnerships with various arts and cultural organizations, and other festivals, within Dundas and across Hamilton.
Longo wants the focus of Cactus Festival to move from out-of-town vendors to local artists.
He said a second stage will probably be added on the east side of the park, in the cove area, and that controls will be put in place protect residents living in and around the park.
Powers said Monday morning said he can support a number of the new plans for Cactus Festival.
“The idea of introducing events to the Driving Park has merit. Wholesale relocation probably has its challenges,” Powers said. “There has to be something to entertain people who come downtown.”
He also said he does not support amusement rides being moved to the park. And he said discussions have to take place between festival organizers and the park concession operator who holds a contract with the city.
“I think the festival’s going to offer a lot more to people,” Longo said.
Bridget MacIntosh, festivals and events officer for the City of Hamilton and chair of the Special Events Advisory Team, said staff from various affected departments are still reviewing the application for this year’s Dundas Cactus Festival.
“With a complex change such as what was proposed, approvals can sometimes take a month or two to complete,” MacIntosh stated in an email.
She said Cactus Festival application is on the agenda for the March 14 meeting of the SEAT committee.