Festival of Wizardry brings thousands to Blyth, weather forces Sunday cancellation - Oct. 19, 2017
BY DENNY SCOTT
Despite hard rain and high winds resulting in the second and final day of the Festival of Wizardry being cancelled, the event brought more than 6,000 people to Blyth on Saturday.
The event, which was hosted by Transfigured Town Inc. at the Blyth Campground, as well as Blyth Memorial Hall had, between ticket holders and volunteers, 6,300 people attend on Saturday according to Transfigured Town Chief Executive Officer Nathan Swartz.
Sunday was cancelled due to a special weather statement for the area that called for lightning storms, heavy rains and 70 to 80 kilometre-per-hour winds.
Swartz, in a press release that was sent out to registered ticket holders and other stakeholders, explained that due to the risk of lightning and wind, the tents would be unsafe. Open portions of the event would also be unsafe, according to the release, due to the weather conditions.
As a result of the cancellation, Transfigured Town Inc. has donated much of the leftover supplies for their events to the Huron County Food Bank Distribution Centre. On Monday, the company organized delivery of 25 crates of chocolate milk, 14 flats of two-litre pop bottles and whipped cream.
Swartz said the company had always planned on the donation but, with the cancellation of Sunday, much more was donated.
As far as financial donations, Swartz said Transfigured Town had hoped to donate $20,000 to the Huron County Food Action Network, the primary recipient of the event’s funds, however that number may change.
“Some of that was based on sales at the Nick’s Death Day mocktail ice bar on the arena floor, but that didn’t happen on Sunday,” Swartz said. “We won’t know what effect the cancellation will have until we go through our debriefing.”
He also said the donations from the classes being taught at the Borealis School for Wizardry at Blyth Memorial Hall would factor into that number. The classes were by donation and Swartz said they expected most people to pay $2, however he said he saw many people donating much more than that which may factor into the donation being closer to that $20,000 goal in the end.
Swartz said a full debriefing is set for early next month at which point numbers will be available from the event. He said there may be some considerations from some service providers for the event as the grounds weren’t used for the two full days.
Alongside the Food Action Network donation, Swartz said Transfigured Town intends to keep its commitments to local groups that will receive donations as a result of their involvement with the event including local skating clubs, high school student councils, St. John Ambulance, the Blyth and Londesborough Lions Club and the Lucknow Kinsmen Music in the Fields committee.
Swartz said that local community groups and local businesses were great for participation in the event. Blyth’s downtown businesses were visibly involved in the event, he said, and added that Huron Tractor had provided transportation for volunteers and Transfigured Town staff on the grounds at no cost.
“It all paid off because it was great to see Blyth so busy,” he said.
Not everyone was happy with the announcement of the closure, however, and some people had criticisms of the event.
Those criticisms found their way to Facebook and were attached to the announcement of the closure. After some time, Facebook users began to notice that posts were being removed, which Swartz explained was done by Transfigured Town’s staff for various reasons.
“We did erase some comments,” he said. “There were some that were posted by people who weren’t ticket holders. We have had a few people who have been reacting negatively to everything since we moved from Goderich and some of the comments came from those camps.”
He said unnecessarily rude comments or misleading comments were also removed.
“We’re in our second year, so we welcome the constructive criticism from people that will help make the event better,” he said. “We won’t remove those.”
Some of the criticisms that accompanied the post included lack of organization, lack of activities and lack of communication.
The post has since been hidden from Transfigured Town’s Facebook page but is still accessible through links. Approximately 700 comments have been removed from the original post and people have complained about the removal of the comments.
Swartz explained that its Facebook page is a storefront for an organization like Transfigured Town and not removing intentionally misleading or unnecessarily negative remarks is similar to leaving offensive graffiti on a storefront.
“That is our business and we need to make sure it’s clean,” he said.
One of the recurring themes in the Facebook conversation was about compensation for those who hadn’t had a chance to use their tickets as a result of the closure. Swartz said an announcement regarding that situation would be made this week. He said approximately 1,800 tickets weren’t accounted for at the end of the day on Saturday.
As for future Festival of Wizardry events, Swartz said he hopes that next year the event can take place in Blyth.
“We have a debriefing with North Huron staff, OPP and other stakeholders scheduled and will receive feedback then, but we’re definitely still looking at Blyth,” Swartz said. “If there is a will for it to happen again on all sides, it could go ahead.”
He said the Blyth Campground was an amazing space for the event and the only concern they had was the impact of the wet weather on parking and the land afterwards.
The 2018 Festival of Wizardry is scheduled for Oct. 13 and 14 and includes several more events and activities than this year’s did. For information and for ticket sales, visit transfiguredtown.com
The next event for Transfigured Town will also be held in the Blyth area as the Festival of Thrones, a medieval-fantasy focused event, is set to take place at Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company in June of next year.