MORRISBURG — The announcement Friday that Cornwall Lift-Off was over should come as a surprise to no one. All good things come to an end, this is the case for Lift-Off as well. For 20 years, the festival was the premier summertime event for Cornwall. The organizers are to be commended for all their hard work during that time.
The end of Lift-Off marks the end of the “big” summer-defining events along the St. Lawrence River in Eastern Ontario. Other festivals such as “Festival of the Islands” and “Riverfest” have long gone in the region. Many will complain, or have complained, via the usual mediums about events like these ending. There are three main reasons why events like Lift-Off run their course and shut down.
Festivals and events like Lift-Off are exceedingly expensive. Insurance, land-use, concessions, marketing, tickets, security, and most of expensive of all, the musical acts. At its peak, Cornwall Lift-Off was bringing in big name acts such as Our Lady Peace, Chantal Kreviazuk, Kim Mitchel, Finger Eleven, Theory of a Deadman, Randy Bachman, and Collective Soul. The volunteers worked hard to bring in the big names and keep the prices affordable for everyone in the area. But in an era when a tribute band concert now runs $30 a ticket, putting a lot of big names in one place is just too expensive.
Like the kids looking under the Christmas tree expecting this year’s haul to be better than the last, the public had expectations of Lift-Off being better every year too, and rightfully so. Organizers and their media partners hyped the lineup every year as being bigger and better. And it was until they could no longer top themselves. It is a catch-22. Bring in the big names and charge a lot, few can afford to attend. Do not bring in the big names, and people wont want to attend.
The biggest reason for events like Lift-Off to end, is volunteer fatigue. Ask any person who volunteers to help with a community event, there are never enough hands to help out. Look at a lot of the community events out there and odds are you will see the same core-group of people helping out in one way or another. When it is the same people running many things, volunteer fatigue sets in. Making high school students volunteer in the community to earn hours for graduation is one thing. But it’s the adults in the community more often than not that need to step up and help out. Many in the community are more willing to pay a fee and walk way than stick around and pitch in. Many more are willing to be armchair organizers but not lift a finger or attend. Community events, sports leagues, historical societies and groups are all suffering from volunteer fatigue. If this continues, expect to pay more as for-profit groups take over running events. Or expect nothing to happen because there will be no volunteers left to do anything.
It is sad to see such a successful community event finish in Cornwall. However a 20-year run for a leading regional event is something to be proud of for the organizers and volunteers who’s hard work made it happen. It is on the community now as a whole to volunteer more to keep other existing events going; and to grow more events to bring the community together.