Free concerts will hurt Old Home Week, argues manager

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The free concerts planned this summer at the 2014 Celebration Zone in Charlottetown could have a major negative impact on Old Home Week, says the manager of the event.

Rayanne Frizzell has written a letter to government officials expressing disappointment and concern over the fact four of the five free concert events scheduled in August as part of the 2014 Celebration Zone are happening during the same week as Old Home Week.

“To have this type of free entertainment offered during our event will be a direct competition and will not be a complement to our event,” Frizell wrote.

“It will have a negative effect on our bottom line financially when people choose free entertainment over paying to come to Old Home Week.”

Her concerns were brought to the floor of the legislature Tuesday.

Opposition tourism critic James Aylward challenged Tourism Minister Robert Henderson on the scheduling conflict between the two festivals.

“Why aren’t you concerned about the negative effects this is going to have on the gate receipts of Old Home Week?” Aylward asked.

“It’s set dates every year, it’s not a secret… I see these concerts taking away from their base clientele of Islanders.”

But Henderson said he does not believe the concerts will have a negative impact on visitors to Old Home Week.  Rather, he argued, it will increase the number of tourists in the downtown.

“(The concerts) are going to attract visitors to Prince Edward Island and those visitors are going to be able to go to Old Home Week,” Henderson said.

“The concerts are only for two or three hours in length, they’re going to have all kinds of opportunity to participate in all the other festivals and events going on in Prince Edward Island.”

But Aylward said he is concerned over the long term viability of the Old Home Week festival when it is forced to compete with free events happening just blocks away.

“Are you content to see a 125-year-old tradition die because your government refuses to support it?” Aylward asked.

He added he does not understand why so many concerts are happening in Charlottetown over this short period of time.

“Why not do some of these concerts in Summerside? Why does it all have to be focused in Charlottetown, especially when you’re competing directly against Old Home Week? It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Henderson said organizers were aware of the scheduling overlap, but booking the artists of the caliber of those coming to P.E.I. meant working within their limited availabilities.

He said he firmly believes the concerts will not take revenue away from Old Home Week, especially since the concerts are free.

“Every festival and event in Prince Edward Island would love to have the Celebration Zone within a couple of blocks of their event,” Henderson said.

“It’s going to attract more visitors to that area. It’s a free concert so those people are going to have lots of resources to go to spend at other events that they might take in that are in the area, i.e. in this case, the Old Home Week.”

Nonetheless, Frizzell has asked P.E.I. 2014 to reconsider its schedule of concerts for August.

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Summerside

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