Just a scant few months after the first year in eons without a September TAPS West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium event, three more paddlesports events north of the border are going by the wayside.
In a letter to subscribers and event attendees, Scott MacGregor, publisher of Rapid Media, announced that the company will no longer produce Palmer Fest, the National Sea Kayak Symposium or the Canadian Canoe Symposium.
MacGregor cites the rising costs associated with staging the events as the primary reasons for pulling the plug.
“Palmer Fest is a big part of me and all of what we do here,” he writes. “It was like throwing a big wedding every spring. Palmer Fest has always been a three-month labor of love and not profitable for Rapid Media. In fact, over the last five years we’ve subsidized the event, and have been increasing rates a little every year in an attempt to make it a break-even weekend…”
Dear Paddlers and Friends,
After five amazing years, I regret to say that Rapid Media will no longer be producing Palmer Fest—or the National Sea Kayak Symposium and Canadian Canoe Symposium. It has not been an easy decision for me, Tanya and our Rapid team.
Palmer Fest is a big part of me and all of what we do here. It was like throwing a big wedding every spring—big white tent, dinner, music and hundreds of our paddling friends, and no mother-in-laws (at least not ours).
Five years ago we set out to create the very best paddling festival. The event had to be accessible, foster a sense of community and get new and enthusiast paddlers together on the water. Over the years we’ve gotten 1,952 people into boats and on the water—726 for the very first time in whitewater; 145 were kids. Mission accomplished. And this year with warm weather and no blackflies, it really couldn’t have been better. I’m very proud of what we’ve built.
So why this letter?
Palmer Fest has always been a three-month labour of love and not profitable for Rapid Media. In fact, over the last five years we’ve subsidized the event, and have been increasing rates a little every year in an attempt to make it a breakeven weekend.
This year with the new HST and other economic factors we were looking at another substantial increase of somewhere between $30 per participant just to break even. Yes, this may still be great value at $165 for the weekend, but I believe it is just too much. It compromises what we set out to do. I fear that a bad vibe out there about the increases in rates would kill any feelings of goodwill toward Palmer Fest and Rapid Media. Know what I mean?
We’ve had five great years with no injuries, no one getting hurt on the highway, and no real trouble at the bar. I feel like we’ve been very lucky. If I was a bar owner, paddling school, an event company, or a volunteer community group behind so many great festivals I may be more comfortable with these risks. Look at it this way: in one weekend we run more paddlers through an instructional program than many kayak schools do in a whole season. In all the fun it is to produce Palmer Fest there is incredible risk, risk that has become too great for me, my family, and for Rapid Media.
The good news is that that Paddler Co-op is working to continue the 10-year tradition of the May long weekend on the Madawaska in Palmer Rapids. They started Palmer Fest and are now working on “creating a new unique and accessible opportunity for paddlers – both new and experienced – to come together for high quality instruction, music, good food and atmosphere.” It seems to me it will be all things Palmer Fest, but on a smaller, more grassroots scale. They tell me online registration will open in the New Year. Contact Paddler Co-op at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
This decision was not an easy one. I’m still not sure it was a good one. No one was as heavily invested and will miss Palmer Fest as much as me.