Monday, September 13, 2010

Red Sands South Shore Potato Fest

Last weekend brought one of our friends from Halifax over for a visit. While trying to come up with some sort of rough idea of things to do, my wife had spotted the Potato Fest going on in nearby Victoria while browsing through the PEI Fall Flavours Festival event calendar and thought it could be fun. I was skeptical at best (exactly how interesting can a potato be you might ask?)but willing to go check it out.

As we were driving up to the venue, I suspected my skepticism might not be unwarranted. In the very, very large park where the event was taking place there sat two relatively underwhelming white tents, and a food trailer much like you would see at a fair.

As we pulled into a parking space, we were unsure if we should venture out and check things out or if we should just keep on driving 'till we found something that looked a bit more entertaining. Upon stepping out of the car we were greeted with overly loud folky music of some sort-but sadly it wasn't very good.

The website promised great live performances by incredible local artists, an amazing sandcastle display and the potato strongman competition as well as all kinds of local vendors and many different places demoing different potato recipes. Well...what we found was perhaps a smidge different.
  • Music-local or not it was just all bad. At least while we were there. Also unreasonably loud.
  • Sandcastles-not so amazing. More like a giant pile of un-castled sand in the parking lot with kids climbing around it.
  • Competition-nowhere to be found. When asked about it folks looked downright confused.
  • Culinary awesomeness-Well there was the potato truck(trailer i mentioned) real outstanding displays of the versatility of the potato-although I hear there were really, really spicy Samosas(??) available for sale inside the tent.
  • Vendors-? Perhaps inside the tent-I wasn't paying for the privilege of their miscellaneous sales pitches.
While debating to stay or go, we realized that the food trailer seemed to be accessible without paying for admission into the tent that seemed to only house the obnoxiously loud music and some chairs, or the smaller tent next to it that held...well no promise of much of anything. So we decided to grab some food. The menu was pretty straightforward. Baked potato. Fries. Seafood chowder(of course). Muscles(more of course). Corn on the cob(yay). The prices were super reasonable and while I can't comment on the muscles or the chowder(or...well...I'd be writing this while dead)the food was great and service was fast. Of course that wasn't a huge feat seeing as rather than a large crowd of hundreds of people there were maybe more like tens of people milling around.

After eating the decision to go inside and investigate was made. Now, I'm not THAT cheap-but I wasn't really thinking it was worth the $6.00/person they were asking for admission into the tent of obnoxiousness, but the ladies wanted to check it out so I suggested they go on ahead and go in with instructions to come let me know if it was worthwhile. While they walked into the noise I grabbed a couple images for the blog(ha!) and started taking bets with myself on how long it would be before they were ready to go. I'm not exactly sure, but even though I was betting on 20 minutes, I think it was more like 5 or 6.'s the thing. I think that's a shame.

Sure, it was the Potato Fest's first year-but they did a *lot* of things wrong and sadly I feel that will impact the success of future years for the Festival. Anyone that went and paid their $6.00 to get into what was basically a beer tent without the decent local band could have been at least in part to blame for the performances we heard as well as the small group of older gentleman sitting around clapping mid-Sunday)I'm sure were left shaking their heads and saying $6? For what? Then when next year comes around and lets say they made tremendous improvements to their Festival-how many will simply dismiss it or how many others will have heard of 2010's showing and decide to pass on it? I'm willing to bet that in a place such as this-quite a few. Yeah, yeah.....tourists blah blah blah-but where do a lot of the tourists(especially the smart ones)get a lot of their info? The locals in the small communities they are visiting.

Now it's not that it was terrible or it ruined our day or anything like that-I mean...nothing ventured nothing gained. I guess I just think of cool stuff when I hear festival. Especially in the fall. To me a beautiful small community like that could have offered a much much better venue than a couple relatively small tents filled with bands that should have probly stuck to the garage for now. Victoria really is a beautiful place and it's a shame that none of the areas natural beauty was used at all, rather it was obscured. I understand the tent approach for a rain backup-and it did rain on Saturday and that is unfortunate-Sunday it was most certainly not raining.

All that being said though, if it's back next year I'll return to give it a second chance since I feel there is a lot of potential there. I'd love to see:

  1. Some sort of evident selection for the bands that are playing. Not just franks cousins brother says these guys are gooooood.
  2. Use some outdoor space in some way. 2 tents 3 picnic tables and an oversize chip wagon does not scream fall festival to me.
  3. Don't charge people to see/experience the local vendor tables-they should pay the festival.
  4. Review admission price and make sure it's worthwhile. I can do a lot of things with 6 bucks that are more entertaining. I don't mind-in fact I actually prefer to spend my money to support local business, but not for nothing. For Charity I donate to the IWK.
  5. Speaking of vendors-why not an all local farmers market or something on the grounds?
  6. Maybe some animals or something. People like animals. Especially animals they don't have to clean up after.
  7. If you claim to have an awesome event going on-make sure it's actually going on.

That's all for now. I know it's not a rainbow and sunshine post...but I call 'em as I see 'em.

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