Strategic Planning Efforts Under Way For Harborfest

Submitted Article

OSWEGO, NY – 2009 planning is already well under way for Harborfest, the annual celebration showcasing the port city of Oswego.

Festival organizers recently invited elected officials on a local and state level to an open forum discussion focusing on the strengths and opportunities for growth that make up the festival, now going into its 22nd year.

While 2008 was a challenging year with the State Route 104 bridge closure, the weather and the economy; the festival proved once again its ability to persevere in the face of adversity.

The strategic planning initiative is in answer to the ever-changing economy and needs associated with operating a festival of this proportion.

The festival, in a proactive effort to ensure sustainability for the festival and the positive impact it has on the community it celebrates, reached out to the community and state leaders to collectively share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas on behalf of the municipalities and constituents they serve.

The collaboration will provide an opportunity for the festival to capitalize on its strengths as well as look for opportunities for growth and improvement.

The areas identified as positive impacts of the festival were tourism, revenue generated, promoting community pride, and highlighting Oswego as one of the largest events in the area with international, national, and local recognition.

Areas cited for growth and improvement were management of crowds and traffic, concern for property, and the overall safety of visiting guests as well as those that reside in the city.

According to John Scardella, newly appointed board president, “Harborfest wants to continue with our effort to reach out to create positive relationships with and gain constructive feedback from our sponsors, businesses, vendors, and community,” he continued “in order to do that we will be hosting additional open forums to include those groups in the planning process.”

He also pointed out that Harborfest is a 501-C3 not-for-profit organization, independent of city governance and monies, a common misconception.

Among those in attendance was Senator Darrel J. Aubertine.

“I want to applaud the organizers for being proactive and exploring all options to maximize the potential benefit for Oswego,” said Aubertine. “Harborfest is consistently a great event with national recognition and they’re working to make it even better.”

Also in agreement with the initiative County Administrator Phil Church stated that the board was doing the right thing in taking a fresh and strategic look at the festival.

He went on to say that the timing was right to take a look at how the festival can fill the community’s needs in whatever form the festival takes in the future.

“There were a variety of ideas and perspectives expressed at the meeting that were helpful to the board and opened new avenues of thinking.”

Assemblyman Will Barclay also reflected on the strategic planning session.

“Harborfest is an impressive four-day event that draws tourists in from different regions of the state and tourists from out-of-state. I applaud Harborfest and their strategic planning efforts,” he said. “I realize that a lot of thought, energy and talent goes into making the event successful every year. As with any major event such as this, there is always room for improvement and it seems the planning committee is eager to get started on the 2009 season.”

Mary Vanouse, the city’s director of community development, stated that she thought that it was a good thing for Harborfest to welcome feedback from the community and many positive things were shared and could come of it.

Over all, the forum had positive and open-minded feedback; when asked as to whether or not the festival should continue the general consensus was yes.

The festival will be offering the following focus groups to include other segments of the community; past board of directors and staff on Sept. 29 at 5:15 p.m. at the McCrobie Building, 41 Lake St., and businesses and sponsors on Oct. 6 at 4:30 p.m. at 118 Rich Hall at SUNY Oswego, both by invitation only.

The general community will be invited on Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at the McCrobie Building.

For more information, call 343-6858 or visit

Harborfest is slated for July 23-26 in 2009.