Hike Haliburton 'came into itself' in 2017
By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 30, 3017
There were a few changes to the Hike Haliburton Festival this fall, and the county’s tourism director plans to keep some of them for next year’s event, while making other changes as well.
“I felt like the festival came into itself in 2017,” tourism director Amanda Virtanen told members of the county’s tourism committee during a Nov. 22 meeting.
The Hike Haliburton Festival takes place each September, offering guided hikes throughout the county.
This year, the number of hikes was increased from 91 to 100, allowing the county to proclaim the festival as Canada’s largest of its kind, and the intention is to retain that increased number.
More challenging hikes were offered in the municipalities with the fewest hikes.
While the event has included some pre-festival hikes, along with an adventure challenge, Virtanen told committee members the intention is to drop these endeavours in favour of focusing on the festival’s core programming.
“Pre-festival hikes have interesting turnout,” Virtanen said, adding that it’s been difficult to attract participants for the adventure challenge.
“I think it’s better just to focus on the four-day program.”
For next year, Virtanen plans to recruit more volunteers earlier in the year, print more programs, and work with the Haliburton Highlands Stakeholders’ Group on how the festival could more effectively put “heads in beds.”
There has been an increase in the number of hikers who stay with local accommodators. According to Virtanen, while the percentage of participants who stay at local accommodations was once about four or five per cent, this year, that percentage was almost 14.
The Biggest Picnic Ever wrap-up event, which takes place in Head Lake Park, will continue to be the festival’s flagship event. Although turnout for the picnic – which includes food and other vendors, music, beer, etc. – was low this year, committee members agreed that was most likely due to sweltering heat the day of.
Another change for next year will be switching from hike-specific hiking kits, that needed to be acquired at particular times and places, to more generic hiking kits – of small, medium and large sizes, essentially.
“There’ll be a lot less administrative process on our end,” Virtanen said.
She also asked committee members what they thought about the idea of a commitment fee, a nominal fee participants would pay to help ensure they show up for hikes they have registered for.
Some committee members felt a small fee would do little to guarantee attendance.
“If it’s a nominal amount, people don’t care,” said Highlands East Deputy-mayor Suzanne Partridge. “If they don’t feel like coming that day, they won’t.”
Committee member Eric Thompson wondered if a commitment fee would be overstepping, since the festival already accepts donations to help offset the county’s costs.
Donation buckets at the festival typically generate between $3,000 and $5,000.
The committee recommended to council that Yours Outdoors, which has been contracted by the county to help organize the festival for several years, receive the contract for next year’s event.
Next year’s Hike Haliburton Festival is scheduled for Sept. 20 to 23.