Blyth restaurants, Festival see IPM uptick - Oct. 5, 2017
BY DENNY SCOTT
While it was a difficult decision for the committee behind the International Plowing Match (IPM) to close the Tented City on Wednesday, Sept. 20, the displaced campers and visitors to the area took advantage of all that the surrounding municipalities had to offer.
The Blyth Festival offered a special $10 off promotion to people affiliated with the IPM – be they volunteers, campers or visitors – and it brought nearly a full house’s worth of theatre-goers to see this year’s hit production of The Pigeon King.
“We had 300 tickets sold to people who identified as being part of the IPM,” Festival General Manager Rachael King said. “I’m sure there were others who joined who may not have used the discount or may not have known about it.”
King said there could be 400 or more people who came to see shows throughout the week as a result of the IPM.
“We had visitors from as far away as Ohio and Ottawa who came to see the show,” she said. “We also definitely had an uptake in tickets on Wednesday.”
King said the interest from visitors helped to further bolster the long-term goal of expanding the Blyth Festival’s annual season.
“This was a great opportunity with a captive audience and they took advantage of the fact that the play was available,” she said, adding that the attendees of the IPM would find the subject matter of the play particularly interesting.
King said that, beyond showing that an expanded season is feasible, taking the chance on having shows this late into September allowed the show and the Festival to find a wider audience.
Anne Elliott of Blyth’s Queens Bakery said the restaurant saw a significant increase in business during the IPM, especially on Wednesday when IPM-goers weren’t able to enter the Tented City.
Elliott said many visitors who had travelled to the area for the IPM on Sept. 20 instead found their way to Blyth when faced with the closure of the Tented City. Elliott said many of the visitors found their way to the restaurant and Elliott and the bakery’s employees suggested ways to spend their time.
“We suggest people stay in the village and visit the leather shops, Maple and Moose, the Blyth Festival and the other restaurants in the area,” she said. “That’s what we usually do with other visitors.
The bakery was one of five local businesses, including Part II Bistro, the Blyth Inn, Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company and the Blyth Festival, that had special post card-style flyers available at the IPM grounds which entitled those carrying them to discounts in the village.
She said it was a successful joint-advertising campaign that brought many people from the IPM in all week.
“People came with or without the cards all week,” she said. “It really put a bug in people’s ears and we had a tremendously good week.”
Don Scrimgeour of Scrimgeour’s Food Market said he and his staff didn’t know what to expect going into the week the International Plowing Match would be held minutes from his store.
“The only thing we had to compare it to was the annual reunion of the Huron Pioneer Thresher and Hobby Association,” he said. “However, it was totally different than that.”
Scrimgeour said that on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the store was unusually quiet during the day, however after 4 p.m. each day, business picked up.
“We had better days than normal after those rushes at night,” he said.
Friday and Saturday, he said, were great days.
The biggest difference between the IPM and the reunion, however, is that Scrimgeour supplies many of the food booths that operate at the reunion.
“We didn’t do that for the IPM,” he said. “Over the weekend, however, we did sell a lot of bread products, so someone may have come in and bought that if they ran out at the IPM.”
Scrimgeour said the week was very positive for the company, and many nice, enthusiastic people visited the store.
Peter Gusso of Part II Bistro said the entire week was good, though he wasn’t always at the helm of his business during the week.
“We had people using the vouchers and people just finding their way to us,” he said. “We definitely saw an increase over last year at the this time.”
Gusso said he loved seeing the theatre being open longer. He also said Saturday was a record-setting day for his business, where his second-in-command in the kitchen Wyatt Ducharme served a record number of patrons.
Gusso was also a part of the IPM, cooking in The Road to the Royal demonstration on Sept. 19. He and fellow Huron County Chef James Eddington of Eddington’s of Exeter were invited to Toronto to compete in the event in November after their demonstration.