Cultural Summit draws a crowd

The following was written and submitted by Angela Ganzler, Public Relations sudent at Loyalist College:

There was a growing sense of excitement during yesterday’s (October 6, 2015) Hastings County and Quinte Region Cultural Summit, hosted at Maranatha Church, in Belleville, Ontario. Much to the delight of those who attended, the speakers entertained us with inspirational ideas and creative solutions to enhancing the culture in our region.  The key mission being, to build upon community partnerships in order to increase the quality of life for residents, as well as attract visitors and newcomers to the area.  The agenda was opened by Emcee Dug Stevenson and included a statement by Rick Phillips, Warden of Hastings County, Garnet Thompson, Councillor of the City of Belleville, and the Mayor of Quinte West Jim Harrison. The presentations then began with Alida Stevenson, the Senior Policy Advisor for the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, followed by four speakers representing different cultural sectors within Hastings County, Marilyn Bucholtz, the Communications & Outreach Coordinator of Lower Trent Conservation; Sandor Johnson, owner of Sandor Vineyard in Tweed; Mike Malachowski, owner of Funk and Gruven A-Z in downtown Belleville and Chris Colten, the Executive Director for the RCAF Memorial Museum in Trenton.

Alida spoke of her interest in this Summit by sharing her personal enjoyment of the region. She then described municipal cultural planning as part of a growing trend and also a strategy to sustain cultural improvement. During her topic on “Leveraging Culture to Fuel Community and Economic Development”, she placed emphasis on strategies such as revitalizing downtown areas and the waterfront, partnering with the Mohawk Territory and identifying the areas of our unique heritage.

Marilyn Bucholtz's environmental contribution included the importance of protecting our natural resources and how a healthy environment adds value to the growing interest for recreational activities in this area. By preserving our extensive waterfront, parks and trails, we continue to attract visitors who wish to experience what we may take for granted, but is not available everywhere, especially in the larger populations.

Sandor Johnson, the first successful wine maker in Tweed, feels the County could support a wine trail that extends north of Prince Edward County. This he believes, would attract visitors to the northern part of Hastings too, where they would spend their money locally. Although he stresses, it is a lot of work, his heart is in the land. He has a passion for the region he chose 20 years ago, for its unique heritage and would like to see money invested at home.

Mike Malachowski's concerns were focused with revitalizing the downtown strip. As a business owner in downtown Belleville, he appreciates the period architecture that makes it unique and feels the public should recognize the importance of raising funds for old buildings which are obsolete. He is an active participant in local recreation and art and believes there is passion for our heritage that could be invested in old architecture. Mike believes there is a heritage here that is so apparent, it is discussed among visitors. He states the key phrase in describing the area is "down to earth".

Chris Colten would like to bring attention to the military culture and history of the largest base in Canada with 5,000 employees. He believes the National Air Force Museum of Canada no longer just represents Trenton, Ontario. He spoke about the domino effect from the visitors of the museum who talk about it and then bring back their family and friends. Spreading the word is important and because of this, even visitors from other countries are asking about Trenton's location.

Alida then commenced this part of the Summit by hosting a question and answer period involving the four local speakers as the panelists. The main objective was to determine how the region can harness these ideas together, in order to promote it. While all involved were in agreement about the enormous potential for growth, it was also made apparent that cultural commitment costs and a shortage of funds and volunteers often leads to burnout. Encouraging young entrepreneurs to start up in this region and play a role in developing culture in the area was a popular topic. Cross promotion was also brought to the forefront as a suggestion for getting a visitor to stay longer or come back. It was determined that one individual or business would not be able to do this alone, therefore the consensus was, if we package the arts, our unique heritage, trail strategy and green technology to show we care and are committed to the area, we have all the ingredients here for success.

Hastings County Economic Development Manager, Andrew Redden was the next speaker who introduced a tool for bringing local businesses together, in order to successfully implement group involvement in the region's promotion. With the launch of the online portal, the community now has a common resource to promote cultural awareness of local businesses and events. Individuals can now contribute to the online resource centre with their calendar of events, comments and announcements. Jason Dias from Millier Dickinson Blais then demonstrated how to use this new website at culturalportal.ca

The rest of the Summit consisted of speakers from other regions that contributed helpful ideas and examples of their own cultural strategies. Karin Ash, Manager of Cultural Services and Gillian Hards, Cultural Services Coordinator, Town of Richmond Hill spoke of their region's cultural success with the "Richmond Hill's Experiences and Best Practices for the Support, Development and Promotion of Culture" plan.  Donna Goodwin, the Cultural Development Coordinator for Tourism Simcoe County then shared her plan with "Simcoe County's Investment in Culture as Part of Its Economic Strategy". Julie Fossitt, Marketing Manager Cultural Services, and Colin Wiginton, Cultural Director for the city of Kingston, presented her "Culture & Regional Tourism" ideas. The Marketing and Communications Manager of The Great Waterway, Krista Doyle then concluded by introducing a new online community platform that allows tourism partners to maintain relationships with others in the industry.

Last on the agenda was Keynote Speaker Noel O'Dea, the founder and director of Strategic &Noel O'Dea speaking at the Cultural SummitCreative Planning at Newfoundland-based Target Marketing and Communications. Target's work has won gold everywhere and is most notorious for their stunning Newfoundland and Labrador tourism campaign. Witnessing Noel's animated presentation on his strategy for creative advertising, it's no wonder that Target continues to be named one of Canada's top creative agencies. Most memorable quote of the day by Noel, "No one has ever bored anyone into buying anything".