“We’re not eliminating the festival. We just want to see what else is out there,” said Mr. Hwang. “We feel we are simply doing our due diligence in determining what our next course of action for a summer festival will be in Westboro.”
The board will issue a request for proposal later this month for a “comparable summer festival,” it said in a three page statement released Friday morning, adding the decision was made after a lot of deliberation which included a three-year survey of BIA members.
The survey indicated some members thought there was room for improvement in the festival, but Mr. Hwang would not get into specifics.
, many BIA members expressed their frustration with the decision. One told OBJ Friday it’s clear the board doesn’t fully represent its members. Kitchissippi Times story
Mr. Hwang said there are “about eight” board members now with “about two” vacancies. He said right now, there are a few retail representatives, a few from health care, and some property managers.
Mr. Hwang, a dentist, said the board wants adequate representation for all its businesses and hopes the vacancies get filled at the BIA’s next annual meeting in November.
“We’re hoping to get more. We’re very open and receptive to our members. We welcome them to become involved,” he said. “We’ve been asking restaurant owners to become involved with the board for years but I think just due to the schedule, it’s difficult for restaurant owners.”
In spite of the support Westfest has from some BIA members, the issue for the most part came down to money, Mr. Hwang said. In 2015, the title sponsorship dropped from $150,000 to $125,000, but even that ended up being too much.
The $125,000 sponsorship fee made up 65 per cent of the BIA’s annual marketing budget. The BIA raises money through membership fees that are paid to the city and then returned to the BIA administration. Mr. Hwang said in light of the current deficit situation, lobbying the city for more money would likely prove futile.
Mr. Hwang stressed the BIA is a big fan of Westfest and is encouraging founder Elaina Martin to submit a proposal when the board issues its RFP. Mr. Hwang said Ms. Martin and her group Westfest Inc. would immediately be a leading candidate.
“Reasoning being they’ve been doing it successfully for many years that they certainly will have an advantage,” he said.
Ms. Martin has already said she has no plans to submit a proposal and has started looking for a different location for her event. Mr. Hwang conceded there is a possibility of dualling festivals in 2016.
While there is talk of a meeting between the board and BIA members to discuss the Westfest sponsorship situation Mr. Hwang said for now, the board plans to continue going down the RFP road for next year’s festival.
“Right now, it’s a board-ratified decision,” Mr. Hwang said. “We feel quite strongly about sending out the proposal because we feel it’s the responsible thing to do. Obviously, we’re very sensitive to the needs of our members too. We’re always open and available.”