By Kaitlyn Clark
The Haldimand Press
HAGERSVILLE—The Hagersville Rocks committee “is determined to make the 2019 festival a successful and memorable event for all, despite late notice from the Province of Ontario that this festival will not receive any funding this year”.
Hagersville Rocks received $25,000 in funding from the Celebrate Ontario 2018 program when it was expanded to a two-day event. A March 7, 2018 news release from the Province noted that Ontario invested “more than $20 million in the Celebrate Ontario 2018 program to support 328 festivals and events, the highest number in the history of the program.” The May 17, 2019 release said there would be $13 million in funding for over 250 festivals, which means nearly 80 festivals lost all of their funding.
“While it is difficult to manage the fact that the Celebrate Ontario recipients were not announced until early June rather than in early April as it was in all other years, the Hagersville Rocks Music Festival is counting on community and corporate support to overcome this loss of $25,000 in funding,” said the committee in a statement to The Press. The festival’s total budget is $175,000, making the $25,000 grant just under 15% of the total budget. The committee noted that they do still have the Haldimand County Festival and Events Grant, along with a number of corporate sponsors.
“In many cases these funding cuts have dealt a huge financial blow to festival organizers and in some instances have led to the outright cancellation of events. But that is not the case for Hagersville Rocks,” said the committee, who is looking forward to the Grant Kett Memorial Ball Park natural amphitheatre rocking with the sounds of a 100% Canadian line-up featuring Juno and CCMA award winning artists on July 26 and 27.
“Now in its sixth year and in the second year as a two-day event, the committee knows the value of this festival to the community of Hagersville and to Haldimand County as a whole. This festival is deemed a ‘municipally significant event’ and the venue itself was declared ‘the best natural amphitheatre in Canada’ by Alan Doyle when he performed on our stage in 2015.”
The committee questioned why “the funding cuts (were) not made on a pro-rata basis across all eligible festivals. Certainly, there should have been consideration to giving some support to all festivals that previously received funding and continued to meet the criteria, but it seems that was not the case.”
The committee was told that the “Celebrate Ontario program is a very competitive program” and that the cuts to both the Celebrate Ontario program and the Ontario Music Fund, which saw its budget cut by over 50%, were necessary to reign in government debt. When they requested further explanation as to why they were rejected this year, they were not given any specifics. Other nearby events that have been denied any funding include Hamilton’s Supercrawl ($275,000) and Festival of Friends ($49,700).
Denelle Balfour from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport (MTCS) noted that they received over 400 submissions for Celebrate Ontario this year: “We placed a significant focus on providing support to new and emerging events across the province … organizations that often struggle to locate funding will now be provided with greater opportunities to hold events. We made sure to provide funding to those festivals and events that demonstrate a clear return on investment, respect for taxpayer dollars, and were focused on increasing tourism in the province of Ontario.”
Balfour also noted that past funding was not a factor in the decision process, and that an additional $4 million was allocated to “Blockbuster” events, which are large one-time or rare national/international events. Information on the 2018 level of Blockbuster funding was not available as of press time. The Press reached out to MPP Toby Barrett for further comment but was directed to speak with the Ministry.
Despite this decision by the MTCS to not fund Hagersville Rocks, the committee is continuing to ensure this year’s event is one “that cannot be missed … (with) local rising stars right to nationally acclaimed artists. Starting on Friday night with Logan Staats, the first-ever winner of CTV’s The Launch, to Juno Award winner and Canadian Walk of Fame star The Jim Cuddy Band as headliner on Friday night, to multiple CCMA and CMAO award winner Meghan Patrick as headliner on Saturday night.”
Proceeds from the festival are in support of the West Haldimand Hospital and Healthcare Foundation.
Check out the line-up in detail at hagersvillerocks.com and make your ticket purchases online through the website linked to ticketscene.ca, or purchase your tickets right in Hagersville at Dinger’s Taps & Grill, Heaslip Ford, Libro Credit Union, Princess Submarine, or Tim’s Tires. You can even check out the Budweiser ticket promotion at many local restaurants – look for the poster at your favourite local restaurant and ask for details!
“Mark the date on your calendar – Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27,” said the committee. “We hope to see you there!”