Harborfest Seeks Public Input To Build For The Future

OSWEGO, NY – Harborfest held the fourth of four focus group sessions Thursday night.

The sessions are designed to assist Harborfest officials in strategic planning initiatives, which include the business community as well as current and potential sponsors, for the continued growth of the summer festival.

Jeff Grimshaw writes down suggestions from the audience.
Jeff Grimshaw writes down suggestions from the audience.

“We want to get some input about Harborfest,” explained Jeff Grimshaw, the meeting’s facilitator.

The previous meetings were for public officials, previous staff and board members of Harborfest and one with the business people.

Thursday night’s meeting was for members of the general public.

Those unable to attend the session could visit www.oswegoharborfest.com and fill out a short survey, he added.

“It’s only five questions,” he said. “So far, we’ve had over 200 responses from people all around the state.”

Nearly two dozen people attended the meeting.

Some felt Harborfest was a positive, but could be improved by promoting it better, year-round, outside of the Port City area.

“Most of it is in just the Oswego area. You can only get so much out of the Oswego people before they’ve had enough,” Kevin Rookey said. “For Harborfest weekend people come from Rochester, Syracuse and all over. There’s no reason why Harborfest can’t reach out and bring in support from some of these other areas.”

The fireworks are the festival’s biggest draw, the crowd agreed.

One member of the crowd pointed out that an area TV channel broadcast the fireworks live this year.

“You should never, never let them do that,” he said. “People should come and watch the fireworks on the lakefront, not on television.”

The waterfront is also a big attraction and should be better utilized, Ken Falise said.

“There’s not enough emphasis on water. The festival doesn’t do a good job of showcasing this area’s biggest assets,” Falise said. “The lake is the world’s best stage.”

Others suggested creating a more “festive atmosphere” in the city, bringing back the laser light show along the river, some sort of parade, fishing demonstrations or a water ski show.

There was some discussion regarding the possibility of incorporating venues at locations such as the Oswego Speedway or SUNY Oswego. However, that was quickly dismissed.

Audience members pointed out that would take people away from the waterfront.

“This year’s fest put the harbor back in Harborfest,” Rookey said. “People used the water taxi service. That highlighted the harbor, the waterfront.”

Bowlers of all skill levels can win cash prizes up to $1,000 at the fourth annual Harborfest Bowlfest planned for Nov. 9 at Lighthouse Lanes in Oswego. Net proceeds of this event will help support the 22nd edition of the festival.

It was suggested that the festival’s board conduct more such events to promote and sustain the festival during the year.

It was also noted that there are signs at the entrances to the city highlighting the championship SUNY Oswego men’s hockey team and honoring the of Oswego natives in the NHL and on the PGA tour.

Harborfest should also be recognized on a sign, they said.

“This may have been a smaller group (compared to the other three), but their answers are pretty much the same,” noted Samantha Pickreign, the festival’s marketing and communications manager. “All of their input will greatly help us in planning next year’s festival and beyond.”

The festival will use the data collected for consideration in the strategic planning process, Grimshaw explained.

Input from Thursday night will be added to the information from the other sessions, which the Harborfest board has been reviewing for about a month and a half, he said.

“We’re taking all that and we’re summarizing it; we’re keeping it as straightforward as possible so we’re not leaving too much out,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to use to develop the whole strategic plan of what are the goals and objectives for Harborfest, what is it going to look like from next year to the next five years.”

“I thought they had some great ideas,” Pickreign said.

For more information, call (315) 343-6858.

Harborfest is slated for July 23-26 in 2009.