Busy season dampened by rain
By Sue Tiffin
Published Aug. 31, 2017
Another summer is coming to an end in the Highlands – but while some businesses said they were busy, for others, the above average days of rainfall made it seem like the busy season didn’t ever really start.
Autumn Wilson, manager of the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce, said she had heard mixed accounts from businesses.
“There was definitely a slow start to the summer across the board, but then some businesses saw it pick up and others didn’t,” she said.
Wilson said the weather definitely had a big impact across the county.
“There was so much rain forecasted that people found cottagers didn’t bother coming up to the cottage at all,” she said. “Normally, rain can be good for business because it causes people to go out and shop instead of being on their docks or on the lakes, but when there was rain in the forecast for the whole weekend, they didn’t come up at all.”
The forecasts calling for significant rain when only brief showers occurred began to irk Linda Middleton of Crystal Image Studio,
who said the visuals often depicted rain and storms even if the forecast itself only called for a slight chance of ran.
“Many of my clients are in the tourism business in one way or another and hearing their concerns with weather predictions for a weekend full of rain that turned out 90 per cent sunshine and no clients sparked me to look a little closer at any possibilities why people were not booking or if they were not booking ahead,” she said. “Many of my clients complained no one is planning ahead, everything is last minute.”
After noticing the negative weather forecasts, Middleton redesigned a weather forecast graphic to more accurately portray anticipated weather, which was shared on social media.
“I prefer the glass is half-full scenario,” she said.
Numerous effects of rain on tourism impacted businesses, according to some.
“The ripples are pretty huge,” said Michelle Delaire of Sage on Hwy 35 in Halls Lake area. “My sales of hamburger buns are down because people aren’t barbecuing. When it’s too hot, people go out to eat, but now my takeaway meals are down because people actually want to turn the stove on in the cottage this summer for the heat.”
Delaire said her catering business has taken off, and her bread and pastry sales have been great still, but to her, the rain – and forecasts for rain – definitely put a damper on heavier traffic. She joked that the April showers lasted until August.
“There were days where the weather report was saying rain, rain, rain, rain, but then we didn’t have the rain,” she said. “The forecast was putting a lot of negative out there, but it ended up being great, glorious days. [When it did rain] my comment was, ‘wait
10 minutes, it’ll be done.’”
Amanda Casey, store manager at Kawartha Dairy in Minden, agreed that rain had made an impact on sales.
“In the month of July, the rain was a hindrance,” she said. “If you have a day of rain, then yes, the rain doesn’t hurt sales. But when you have a whole month of rain, that definitely takes a bit of a toll.”
Like Wilson, Casey said that rain in the summer often drives visitors from their cottages and the lakes into town to run errands, go
sightseeing and “enjoy a cone,” but that lengthier periods of rain keep people home. Still, she noted the dairy did well, especially after the wet July.
“We had a little bit of summer in August,” she laughed. “There was like a week in there.”
The car wash next to the dairy hasn’t been any less busy than usual, with Craig Crowe saying it’s usually actually busiest in the winter months. He did notice the laundromat has been exceptionally busy this summer.
Contractors in the area also experienced a busy season, though they had to work around the inclement weather.
“It’s certainly slowed things down, because you just can’t get two days in a row,” said Aggie Tose, executive officer of the Haliburton County Home Builders’ Association. “Definitely it slows everybody down, because from the foundation, everything’s too
wet. So the big trucks for excavating can’t get in, the foundation guys can’t get in, septics can’t get finished, roofing is impossible.”
Although excess rain in the spring impacted Suwan’s Thai Cuisine, who were ready to open for the season when Gull River flooding prevented the popular Minden restaurant from serving customers, the rest of the year has gone as well as it always does.
“We’re so swamped with people, we can’t handle it,” said Ron Gambell, co-owner. “Every night we have to turn people away because we can’t look after them. We’ve always been full to capacity.”
Gambell said that he’s visited other area restaurants that also seemed busy this summer.
“There’s an influx of maybe 100,000 in the summertime, any one person or restaurant can’t feed them all,” he said. “We went out on Monday night, you couldn’t get on the Peppermill lot. You couldn’t get anywhere near it. We went to Rhubarb ...and there was a bit of a wait. Everything’s just packed full.”
Anna Mannarino, at La Luna Del Nordo Ristorante in Haliburton, said the new restaurant’s opening summer was a good one.
“It’s gone amazing,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of support from the community, I think it is a go-to place when it rains because it’s
comfort food they’re getting.”
At Highlands Cinemas, Keith Stata said that although last year was a good one, this year the movie theatre in Kinmount didn’t do as well.
“Theatres are not like other businesses, they are dependent on product,” said Keith Stata. “Good movies, good year, lousy movies, lousy year.”
Stata also said changing times as well as accessibility to download movies, even illegally, have resulted in fewer moviegoers in general.
“In the old days, mom took the kid to Bambi, and that kid took his kid to Bambi,” he said. “Today with people watching downloads on their phone, the tradition is broken. Our cheap night used to be huge, now hardly anyone goes.”
He noted the theatre’s Coca-Cola salesman said this has been the worst summer they have seen.
“But while people complain about the rain and bugs, would they really be happier with all the drought and fires in BC and elsewhere?” said Stata. “A little rain is one thing, having the forest and town burn down is a little more inconvenient.”
According to Geoff Coulson, a warning preparedness meteorologist who works for the Meteorological Service of Canada as part of Environment and Climate Change Canada, an observation site has been in place in Haliburton since 1883.
May was the second rainiest May on record with 190.6 mm of rainfall. The record is 294.1 mm in May 1912. Haliburton’s monitoring station saw 168.6 mm of rain in June this year, compared to 86.4 mm in June 2016. It was the rainiest June since 2014, when 241.4 mm fell. In July, 95.6 mm of rain fell this year, compared to 73.2 mm of precipitation in July 2016. According to Coulson, there were 14 days in July with measurable rainfall (the long-term average is 11 days) and there have been 13 days so far in August with measurable rainfall (the long-term average is 10 days).