Escalating policing and city of Hamilton rental costs have forced Lobsterfest organizers Knights of Columbus this year to relocate their popular event to the Ancaster Fairgrounds from their traditional Morgan Firestone Arena home.
“Those costs were getting a bit high,” said Joe Laposa, promotions chair of the Ancaster chapter of the Knights of Columbus, which has operated the popular Lobsterfest event in the spring for at least a decade.
He said the non-profit group was reviewing its balance sheet from 2012, and the potential costs this year of holding the event in the same venue and discovered the higher rental costs for the arena, plus the escalating price tag the organization was required to pay for police, was cutting into their bottom line. He said over the years the Knights have raised between $30,000 to a high of $50,000 from the event, which they donate to various community groups. In 2010 the event raised $45,000 for their charitable donations.
“(The revenue) has diminished somewhat,” said Laposa.
The money from Lobsterfest has been used to help other community programs, said Laposa. For instance $5,000 was donated to the Rotary Club for the new spray pad, scheduled to open in June; $10,000 has been given to Camp Marydale in Glanbrook, as well as donations have been made to Neighbhour to Neighbour on the Mountain, Good Shepherd, Ancaster minor youth sports clubs, and Out of the Cold.
“We are a charity that wants to give back to the community,” he said.
In an attempt to see a higher return on their event, the Knights of Columbus struck a deal with the Ancaster Fairgrounds owners that will see Lobsterfest, billed as the largest indoor charity event in town, held on May 18, the first time it has taken place on the Victoria Day holiday weekend. Traditionally, Lobsterfest had been held one week after the holiday weekend.
“(The fairgrounds) is a venue that is a bit smaller, but it has a larger parking area for people,” said Laposa.
And instead of hiring Hamilton police officers for security, which can cost about $65 per hour per officer for a minimum of four hours, the Knights of Columbus are hiring private security people.
“From what I understand we are saving at least half the cost of policing,” he said.
Lobsterfest, said Laposa, has sold out every time it’s been held. About 1,800 people have shown up to eat two tonnes of lobsters flown in fresh from the east coast, and the juicy 14-oz steaks. The event has become a highly anticipated event within the community, which also included a video disc jockey, music in the atrium, and a band in the gym, said Laposa.
Laposa says relocating to the fairgrounds is an “experiment.” The group doesn’t know how many people will show up, and the venue holds fewer people than the arena. Some Ancaster residents have grumbled they won’t travel all the way to theTrinity Roadlocation for the event, but Laposa says they hope they can minimize any disruption.
“There is a possibility of alienating some people,” he said. “But I think we can attract other clientele. It is an experiment.”
The idea, said Laposa, is to raise as much money this year as the group did last year, nearly $30,000, a target they would not have done if they were still at Morgan Firestone Arena.
In addition to the change in location, the Knights of Columbus are also offering a revised menu. Despite the financial pressures, the Knights have kept the price of the dinner the same. People can still get their three lobsters for $50, and $40 for a 14-oz steak, attended by 150 volunteers. But instead of a few cold salads, there will be a baked potato and corn on the cob. Dessert, premium beer and wine will also be available. For people interested in attending only the dance portion of the evening, tickets are $20. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Entertainment will be provided by Ruby Entertainment, located on Alberton Road, said Laposa. Ruby is a video disc jockey, who also will provide a light show.
“It’s well respected in the area,” said Laposa.
Another wrinkle is that tickets for the event will be available only online at www.kofcancaster.ca. Tickets can be picked up at Rastin’s Pharmacy onWilson Street. A $2.50 service fee will be charged to the ticket order.
Laposa said in the past tickets could be purchased at Rastin’s, but the administrative costs were getting too onerous for the business.
“We were asking a lot from them to sell the tickets,” said Laposa.
Tickets are scheduled to go on sale March 16.