With any new undertaking there are growing pains.
This has been true for the inaugural Summerside Lobster Festival.
It was a new idea, building on the 58-year-tradition of the Summerside Lobster Carnival.
The original celebration was just about dead in the water. It had lost its ownership, volunteer base and it’s public appeal.
In stepped the City of Summerside to take over the event and rebrand it the Summerside Lobster Festival. Don Quarles was hired as a full-time executive director for the event with an eye towards making the event self-sustainable.
In fairness to Quarles, he was hired by the city in February and tasked with the responsibility of turning the lobster festival into a major event.
Not a whole lot of time, given the work that would be required to complete such a task.
Critics have said the Summerside Lobster Festival wasn’t much different from its predecessor.
Some of the popular traditional events were maintained, while others were dropped and new ones added. It was an attempt to breath new life into a dying event.
It worked, to some degree.
The Chautauqua tent set up on Water Street as a focal point for downtown events during the festival was a solid addition to the festival as was the Green Shores concert and entertainment tent.
The Go Lobster promotion was another positive addition that promoted the festival, local restaurants and the Island lobster industry in general.
There has been little public outcry over the exclusion of the midway that had been a staple of the old carnival event - another positive move.
There have been some problems. The talent show almost didn’t happen but an eleventh hour push by the organizers managed to pull it off and it was a success.
The parade wasn’t anything special and was similar to many parades of the past. And it too had its problems – one being a few gaps along the parade route and the traditional problem of not having enough music.
These are relatively minor issues and can easily be corrected.
Quarles has been successful in laying a new foundation for the festival in a very short period of time – a foundation that can be built upon. It will take time but it can happen.
Quarles has said the Summerside Lobster Festival is a community festival. But why hasn’t the Summerside community embraced it?
People in Tignish, Tyne Valley, Alberton and Kensington have taken ownership of their summer festival events. In Summerside, people seem to want to wait for the city and a small core group of familiar volunteers to do the work and then sit back and criticize the event.
If the Summerside Lobster Festival is to be successful and grow to be the major event it has the potential to be, the people need to work with Quarles, work with the city and make it a true community event.