Collingwood councillors vote to stop operating Elvis festival

By Adam Burns, The Canadian Press

Some Elvis fans are all shook up over an Ontario town’s decision to stop running an annual festival devoted to the King of Rock n’ Roll.

Councillors voted unanimously Monday to discontinue the Collingwood Elvis Festival as a municipally operated event after this year’s edition, which runs from July 26 to 28.

It’s unclear what that means for the future of the festival, which began as a volunteer-run event in 1995 before being taken over by the town in 2003.

Councillors put off voting on a staff recommendation to hand over management of the event to a private operator.

A town official says declining attendance in recent years means the festival is no longer the “economic driver” it once was for the town of 20,000 on the shores of Georgian Bay.

But Wendy King, a self-described “huge” Elvis fan who attends the event every year, says she has trouble believing that – and she worries the festival will become “watered down” if a private company takes over.

“I don’t think they can keep up to the high standard,” said King, noting that the town has years of experience to draw on when running the event.

“They’ve got 24 years of contacts and contracts and deals with people. I just don’t know how you do that without the town’s involvement.”

King, a former broadcaster who has visited Graceland roughly 50 times, said the festival put Collingwood on the “global map” among Elvis lovers, and the town would be making a mistake to hand it over.

“It makes me feel like they didn’t appreciate what all these thousands of fans over all these years have given this town,” she said.

Karen Cubitt, Collingwood’s manager of culture and events, said the town does recognize the festival’s importance in attracting visitors, adding that it remains a viable event that is nonetheless “trending downward.”

“In order to reverse this trend, it will take more resources – more dollars into marketing, more dollars into programming,” said Cubitt. “It’s that increase that council wasn’t willing to put on the taxpayer.”

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