By Angelica Ingram
Published Sept. 29 2016
The annual Hike Haliburton Festival that took place county-wide this past weekend was the largest one yet.
Since its inception the festival which incorporates hikes concerts food events and more has grown every year and this year was no exception.
Held from Sept. 22 to 25 Hike Haliburton which is an initiative of Haliburton County was tremendously successful with many hikes surpassing their limit said project manager Barrie Martin.
Although it’s early to report final numbers Martin said he suspects attendance to be approaching 2000 people and even more once you factor in every event. The number doesn’t reflect how many attended the festival as many individuals participate in multiple aspects of the festival.
“The numbers are certainly exceeding expectations” he said.
Approximately 40 per cent of participants tend to be local residents based on previous years said Martin.
“Forty plus tend to be cottagers” he said. “Hike Haliburton’s giving them another reason to come up for another weekend.”
Martin said there are many examples of hikes that had 25 people pre-registered and 50 people showed up.
A total of 90 people attended two hikes held at Miner’s Bay Lodge on the weekend for example.
“There’s a strong indication that our numbers will be up significantly over last year” said Martin.
Another indicator was attendance at Haliburton’s Biggest Picnic Ever which the project manager estimates was somewhere around 500 people from start to finish.
Although Martin doesn’t have all the details to summarize the event yet he has been hearing nothing but positive feedback from individuals who participated.
“From a whole bunch of different places people are raving about the quality of the experience and the quality of the signage and the organization” he said. “I haven’t heard much negativity about the event at all which is really gratifying.”
Martin says for the past four years the festival has seen a 20 per cent increase in participation each year compared to the last. He’s not exactly sure what led to the large turnout this year but points to factors such as good weather marketing and word of mouth.
“I think it’s a combination of building awareness because we got our marketing out earlier it went further” he said. “I think the weather was a huge factor.”
Prior to the festival’s start there were 1500 people pre-registered. This year the festival was longer in length and included hikes on the afternoon of Thursday Sept. 22. Sponsorship was also up this year almost double what it was last year.
Apart from growth Martin focuses on maintaining a quality festival. Looking ahead organizers are hoping to continue to build the festival and accommodate more people.
The festival is put together by an organizing committee that includes Walter Tose Bruce Ballantine Shannon Blanchard Corina Mansfield Karra Wesley Bill and Kathy Hutson Ann Parsons Maria Paterson and director of tourism for Haliburton County Amanda Virtanen.
Virtanen is pleased with the event this year and has also heard positive feedback from the community. This marked the fourth time Virtanen was involved with the festival.
“I thought it was a huge success this year” she said. “There’s no unhappy stories anywhere.”
The tourism director said they are already thinking of ideas for next year and have Adventure Canada on board as a presenting sponsor.
Personally speaking Martin is thrilled with the outcome of this year’s event and the positive feedback.
“I feel like we’ve done a job well done again this year.”
Martin will present final numbers from the festival at the Oct. 12 meeting of Haliburton County council.