Changes for Hike Haliburton Festival 

By Chad Ingram

The county will make some tweaks to its signature event the Hike Haliburton Festival next year.

Tourism director Amanda Virtanen presented members of the county’s tourism committee with a report on the event during their Nov. 11 meeting.

“My recommendation is that we really focus on hikes which seems silly because it’s Hike Haliburton” Virtanen said.

While traditionally the county has hosted both an opening and closing festivity for the festival Virtanen recommended scrapping the launch event typically held the Thursday night of the weekend of the festival at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre.

That event which has a history of low attendance typically includes food and live music. This year it also included hiking tales.

Instead Virtanen recommended the county focus on the wrap-up event. This year was the inaugural year for the Biggest Picnic Ever held in Head Lake Park which featured music food and drew a crowd of some 250 people.

The director is hoping to double that crowd that next year.

“That sort of becomes the signature event of the festival” she said.

Other non-hike events throughout the festival are run by partner groups such as the Haliburton County Folk Society.

As for the hikes themselves Virtanen recommended limiting group sizes for hikes to 20 as she’s had feedback that on hikes with too many people it becomes difficult for participants to see and hear the leader well.

A maximum group size of 20 would mean growing the number of hikes to 75 to maintain the festival’s 1500 hikes spaces.

In 2015 there were 68 hikes.

Virtanen also plans to make the additional hikes more challenging ones as it’s the challenging hikes that seem to draw more people from outside the community.

For 2016 she also plans to have the Hike Haliburton map and program finalized by the end of May so they can be distributed throughout the summer.

Barrie Martin of Yours Outdoors will once again be contracted to manage the festival with a program management fee of $14000.

The county is also seeking corporate sponsors for the event.