The vast majority of businesses in the Cavendish/Stanley Bridge/Rustico area would agree that business comes to a standstill during the Cavendish Beach Music Festival. There is no increase in business for restaurants or accommodation providers because, with or without the concert, they would be fully booked in July. In fact, hosting concerts on back-to-back weekends in July would definitely result in a downturn in business. It is well known that residents and visitors alike avoid Cavendish during the CBMF. If a second consecutive weekend is also taken up with concert attendees, that is 2 weekends of lost business in the prime summer market. Those folks who may want to book a week-long vacation in mid-July will not do so because all of the accommodations will be booked up on the weekends. Accommodation providers are already reporting booking cancellations as visitors do not want to be here during a rock concert. While I appreciate the creativity of featuring an onsite culinary component during the Sommo festival, concert attendees will not be going to local cafes or restaurants to eat.
Onsite vendors will make sales but local businesses – the ones that make Cavendish and surrounding areas vibrant and interesting for the rest of the season – will NOT make money. Concert goers are not partaking in deep sea fishing, visiting local shops and artisan studios, attending local ceilidhs or theatre.
I don’t buy the suggestion that, once the Sommo festival is “established”, consideration will be given to moving the dates. Once it is established, patrons will be booking their accommodations at least a year in advance. The outcry from concert attendees due to a change of date will ensure that the July date will remain as established.
I also don’t buy the fact that it is so very difficult to gain interest in a concert series without an established brand or website and that the only interest could possibly be the weekend following CBMF. Any promoter worth their salt would be able to clearly demonstrate the success of the CBMF – that mega concerts can and are highly successful in Cavendish, that big names have headlined CBMF, that the promoters’ experience in successfully establishing CBMF points to a similar successful venture in creating a rock concert series.
While it may be true that CBMF has attracted a younger crowd than may normally visit Cavendish, beyond the festival(s) weekend(s), what would encourage them to return and stay in the Cavendish area for a longer period of time? They haven’t been to shops or restaurants. There is very little for them to do in the evenings. Rather than focussing on concerts that disrupt the already busy tourism season in the month of July, perhaps look to encouraging the development of pubs with live entertainment in the evenings. When folks dock at 8 pm after deep sea fishing, or when visitors have finished a leisurely dining experience, when they ask where they can go for some local entertainment, there is next to nothing available.
I have no doubt that, after the hard work that goes into hosting CBMF, the Whitecap Entertainment staff and volunteers are exhausted. Are they going to have the energy, the wherewithal, to host a second concert the following weekend?
If the Sommo concert series was held in June, university students would be finished their spring semester and would be available to staff the event. If it were to be held in the fall (September to early October), students are certainly free to work on weekends. And – because all of the shops and restaurants at the Boardwalk and Avonlea Village are closed following Labour Day, and because venues like Shining Waters close following Labour Day, there would be plenty of people who have been laid off and would be available to staff a major event in September or early October.
I agree that Cavendish can’t just be Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery, amusement parks and beaches. Guess what – it isn’t! Perhaps that is the focus of the “Cavendish Beach” area – stretching from approximately Shining Waters to Green Gables. However, the Resort Municipality of Cavendish and surrounding area is so much more than that! We encompass the businesses that are striving to extend the season beyond Labour Day. When guests express some surprise that we are open because they have heard that “Cavendish closes down after Labour Day”, we explain that it is that small stretch of “Cavendish Beach” that is closed and there is still lots to see and do from New London and Stanley Bridge to North Rustico and south to New Glasgow.
Is the Resort Municipality supportive of these hard-working small businesses – inns, cottages, restaurants, cafes, shops and artisan studios - or is their only focus on the big players, most of whom close their doors after Labour Day? By giving approval to host the Sommo Festival on the weekend following CBMF, it would be a clear demonstration that, in the eyes of the Resort Municipality, we don’t matter. Many, many business owners have spoken up about how hosting a second concert series in July immediately following CBMF would be detrimental to their businesses. They are supportive of giving the go-ahead at an earlier or later date, just not in the prime summer season. It is not a secret that any business in the tourism sector here in PEI has had a rough go these past few years. Hurricane Dorian started the downturn, effectively ending the season in early September, 2019. Then along came Covid and all of the shut-downs and restrictions. Just as we were seeing things pick up once again, along came Hurricane Fiona in the fall of 2022. Do you really want to add yet another event that will create a downturn in revenue for local businesses? A second concert festival in July will do just that. Your decision will let us know.