One important All Ships take-away


It would be easy for the cynic, well-practised at slamming Riverfest over the years and longing for another Brockville event to devour in the acid bowels of snarl, to take down the All Ships Festival.

There were bad omens – a threesome of them, no less – that leant themselves to the snarky-bastard treatment: the event's main organizer dropped in a budget-related personnel move shortly before its start; a goofy but likely-to-be-popular paintball challenge scrapped for insurance reasons; and two star-attraction cruise ships stricken from the list due to a lock accident.

One would be tempted to mention Sunday's rain as well, but any outdoor festival already factors in a little rain. That can't be helped.

And to his credit, the dropped organizer managed to have a little fun at the festival.

For all its flaws, and its failure to deliver the throngs we saw on Blockhouse Island the last time the mighty sails were docked on our riverfront, one has to admire the All Ships planners for their dogged determination.

By the time all the bad news had sunk in before opening night, one got a prevailing sense of: “Snarlingtown be damned; we're going through with this!”

Because in Brockville, the snarling, like the rain, is something that organizers now know they have to factor in.

Despite the less-than-ideal turnout, I hope the more community-minded among us will leave All Ships Weekend behind with this one take-away: Tall ships have become our summer thing.

It was obvious from the start that we would start building our tourism identity from the waterfront. There would have been no Riverfest without the river, after all, and while the Aquatarium remains late in coming to port, it will also reinforce this small city's maritime identity.

What better feature to bring in, then, than these majestic sailing vessels that continue to capture our imagination?

Tall ships are a wonderful feature, but they are also a challenging one – as witness the low turnout at All Ships.

I would venture to say the turnout at the event would have risen in proportion to each additional tall ship, had more been available. However, the sad reality is these vessels are expensive and difficult to schedule.

Tourism manager Steve Weir has nonetheless made it his challenge to incorporate some kind of nautical event into each summer's calendar.

Such a plan will produce a more fluid calendar than we knew under Riverfest: not a fixed “festival,” as much as an annual event crafted around the type and number of sailing vessels available.

In time, however, as our reputation builds, there could be something more solid.

So, to use a tired but appropriate metaphor, let's all pull our oars in the same direction and try to make this happen.

As for the snarlers, well, we do have a crew of pirates on board who could make them walk the plank.