Financial Pitfalls Put Barrhaven Canada Day At Risk

By Charlie Senack

The future of Canada Day in Barrhaven is in question after financial cuts from all levels of government are putting a hole in the festival’s operating budget.

Darrell Bartraw, organizer of the annual volunteer-run event, said this year, no funding from the provincial or municipal governments came in. The main stage’s Barrhaven business title sponsor also decided to no longer support the neighborhood festival at Clarke Fields.

“This is an annual event the community looks forward to every year. For many it’s become an annual tradition. We see many of the same faces coming back year after year,” said Bartraw. “We keep growing in size as the community of Barrhaven rapidly grows. But now we fear we will need to cut back, and that will impact the experience for attendees.”

Some of the costs have been picked up from community donations including through a GoFundMe page set up to keep the attraction alive. A contest has been launched where those who donate a minimum of $10 will be entered to win free festival tickets.

New sponsors including the recently opened State & Main Restaurant have also stepped up to ensure Barrhaven residents can celebrate Canada’s birthday, but there’s still a $15,000 gap.

Pinching pennies

Last year, Canada Day in Barrhaven received a $52,500 grant from the Province of Ontario’s Experience Ontario program. Recent changes capped the contribution to $20,000, but no money has flown in this year.

The festival will get $10,000 through the Canadian Heritage Grant Program — $4,000 less than last year.

The annual tulip festival which draws in tens of thousands of visitors to the Capital every year had to lay off staff and try to do more with less after also receiving little government money. Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the tulip festival had more than $800,000 in funds to work with. This year, it’s about $550,000. The City of Ottawa may not fund the festival at all next year.

The Ottawa Festivals Network said funding from the federal level is down 25 to 60 per cent and 50 to 70 per cent at the provincial level. The 27-year-running Ottawa International Writers Festival was almost forced to shut down last year due to tight bank accounts. It asked for $66,000 from Ontario’s Ministry of  Tourism, Culture and Sport — but received nothing — and had to take funds out of its emergency reserve.

In the case of Canada Day in Barrhaven, Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod said she planned to advocate to Ontario Premier Doug Ford for more financial assistance.

Reduced attractions

Bartraw said he hopes attendees will not notice any considerable changes this year but said they’ve had to go with cheaper bands.

“We’d love to bring in bigger names for entertainment, but this will save us literally thousands of dollars. It’s not what we want to do, but there will still be performances to get people up and dancing to the music,” he said. 

The 42-year-old festivities will still end with a firework performance in the evening, and will include the regular midway, kids zone, food trucks, and seniors breakfast. Vendor village, an outdoor farmers market with over 20 stalls, will also happen throughout the day.

“Everything that makes Canada Day in Barrhaven will still be there. We’ve been working all year to make sure it happens. When one year’s event ends, we start planning for the next one the following day,” said Bartraw. “We will have games, entertainment and activities for people of all ages.”

New this year, the midway will run for 10 days with a two-day break in between. A cultural day will be held on the Saturday with performances on the main stage from 2:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. The following day, a country music festival will take place during the same time.

An upcoming comedy show held at the Barrhaven Legion on June 1 will also help offset some of the expenses. A trivia night will also occur at the Cedarhill Golf Course on June 15. Details on both events can be found on the Canada Day in Barrhaven website.