Cloverdale hit with blueberry blues

CLOVERDALE – It was a beautiful, sunny day in Cloverdale on Monday but some people had the blues after it was revealed the annual Blueberry Festival would not come to fruition this year.


"We had a bit of a perfect storm occur and unfortunately we had some fallout in terms of support from sponsors," explained Paul Orazietti, executive director of the Cloverdale BIA, which puts on the event.


"So without getting into great detail or pinning blame on any one of the people who had sponsored us in the past, we basically fell quite short. Because of the financial commitment required for an event of that size… we felt we needed to postpone it."


The announcement was made at the BIA’s annual general meeting Monday, and Orazietti acknowledged there is a "huge emotional attachment" to the event in the community, which would have seen its 12th iteration in 2015.


"It wasn’t necessarily a money maker for everybody but there was a lot of positive spin-offs for different businesses," he said. "The reaction is emotional. I think part of all of this is like anything else, when you’re a family and you’re going over your bills and your budget and you have to make a shift then you have to live within your means."


According to Orazietti, the event costs roughly $50,000 to put on, almost half of which comes through sponsorship.


"You hate going out with cap in hand, but you do sometimes need to tell people that we want to carry on, but we need more help. We need more financial support," he said. "We have to really build up our volunteer base and get people fundraising and try to make it self sustaining."


While the BIA is calling on the community for volunteers, sponsorship and donations, Orazietti said it would be difficult to save this year’s festival.


"But putting the seed money together for next year would be really desirable," he added.


Also postponed is the community’s annual Halloween event, which drew many children to the area.


A ‘STRATEGIC SHIFT’ IN SPENDING While sponsorship decline led to the cancellation of the two events, so did the BIA’s decision to make a "strategic shift" in the way it spends its dollars.


Extra funding has been earmarked for a "gateway sign" at the corner of Highway 10 and Highway 15 – which would be the largest sign in the area – aimed at attracting more people to the businesses there. Beautification initiatives are also planned for the area, particularly along Highway 10.


Orazietti said the corner sees some 75,000 vehicles pass by each day, and the BIA hopes to capitalize on that.


"There were a number of contributors and people and businesses along Highway 10 that had been putting in reasonable amounts of money and not seeing anything occur in their immediate area. So from that perspective there needed to be a balance," he said.


"The gateway sign is something we’ve talked a lot about and this is very much doing what other established communities like Fort Langley and White Rock have done. When you go to those communities you get a sense of arrival…. If you drive by and you can’t see where you are and you have all these people driving by and they don’t realize they’re going through Cloverdale, it’s a lost opportunity."


Also this year, the BIA is increasing the amount of money it allocates toward safety and security, including graffiti removal and new cameras at hot spots in the area.


Also at the meeting, Orazietti said the BIA heard concerns about retail gaps in the community.


"We’re trying to build more local opportunity for boutique businesses and that to come into the area," he explained. "A lot of what we’re doing right now is trying to encourage more people come here. In doing that, money had to be allocated towards a website and expanding the information on being able to see what’s going on here, finding out what sort of space is available and things like that. So business recruitment is a big thrust…. There’s infill that can occur in several different locations."


Orazietti said one of the biggest frustrations expressed at the meeting was what will be done with the old Safeway site due to the "lack of details" about what will happen there.


"It’s the densest part of the town centre and it’s the glue that ties the properties together on either side of the highway."

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