Audience members take their seats at a public presentation of Bridget Horel’s Sunfest 2016 report. Horel

Sunfest study highlights Lake Cowichan’s strengths and weaknesses

On Nov. 30, Bridget Horel, economic development intern with Island Coastal Economic Trust, presented

On Nov. 30, Bridget Horel, economic development intern with Island Coastal Economic Trust, presented her 2016 Sunfest study at a public event at Centennial Hall. In attendance were community members, volunteers from the LEAD (Lake Economic and Activity Development) group, the chamber of commerce and representatives from Laketown Ranch, including owner Greg Adams.

Horel’s report, which includes the results of a study she conducted during this year’s Sunfest Country Music Festival, highlighted a number of strengths and weaknesses in terms of how local businesses and community groups capitalized on the festivals inaugural year at its new location.

The two areas highlighted for improvement were marketing/communications and shuttle services.

“There was a lack of awareness about what was happening with the ‘welcome Sunfest’ initiative downtown,” she said. “40 per cent of the people I talked with weren’t aware those events were happening.”

Horel encouraged early marketing and online marketing. She said a large portion of Sunfest attendees got their information about the festivals through social media, and the LEAD group did not have a sufficient online presence for their activities.

“There was an assumption that people would find the town, and we can see now that this assumption was wrong. Once people got to the town there were lots of volunteers with these lovely green shirts on… But people weren’t always getting to the town.”

During question period after the presentation, one person expressed concerns about the study’s sample size (71 people) and asked if it was sufficient.

“It’s definitely a small sample size,” said Horel. “There is something with research where you saturate the data, so if you find you’re getting the same kinds of responses over and over again, you can assume that you’ll continue to get those responses over and over again. So in that way, there was enough things that were being repeated.”

Someone else asked if Horel had spoken with any residents of Area I, which she did not.

Diana Gundersen, a vocal opponent to the Laketown Ranch project, said she found the public meeting disappointing.

“This is a Lake Cowichan group [here tonight]. I think the only other person from Area I here is Klaus Kuhn,” she said. “They’re concerned with business and how to make money off this and they absolutely have no concern for the residents who stand to gain nothing but who have lost their rural lifestyle for the summer.”

Following Horel’s presentation, the 40 or so people in attendance split into small groups to discuss ideas and possible strategies for next year’s activities. Afterwards, Greg Adams took a moment to address the group and share some of his own thoughts about the past year and the year to come.

He thanked everyone for their support and their dedication to Sunfest-related activities in town.

“You knew it wasn’t going to be perfect the first year but what a great start,” he said.

Adams noted that between the end of August and May 20, there are no events at Laketown Ranch.

“So between now and then, the only issue up there is rain. There’s no noise, no music, no traffic. We’re a pretty good neighbour right now,” he said. “It will get busy in May. We are going to do a rock/classic rock festival… We will have a festival next May long weekend. It will be two days on the main stage, one day of what we call small stages.”

He also revealed plans (still in the works) to donate a venue to the organizers of Ned Fest.

“Ned Fest to me is what small little festivals are all about. It’s just local bands, local people, all enjoying themselves,” he said.

He also said he’s hopeful that there will be one or two other one-day events where they land an artist who can’t play anywhere else on Vancouver Island except for Laketown Ranch.

Adams said in total he anticipates about nine main stage days and 13 to 14 total festival days at Laketown Ranch next year.