Looking ahead to the annual general meeting next month, the Church-Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area (CWVBIA) has a number of vacant positions on the board, and a hot topic for the new board members is likely to be the Church Street Fetish Fair.
The AGM will be held on Nov 9 at 6pm at the 519 Church Street Community Centre.
David Wootton, the fair’s managing producer and CWVBIA manager, says the board is especially in need of another secretary, someone with good shorthand. All positions will be filled through an election process. Board members will be required to commit to attend meetings at least once a month.
“It’s hard to get landlords out to meetings, not just here, but every [BIA] in the city,” he says. “We are trying to engage them. We want to bring them in as an active participant in this Village.”
There are currently 11 board members occupying the potential 14 seats, he said. The management board executive positions include chair, vice-chair, treasurer, secretary, and now a second secretary is required.
“No one has told me they aren’t interested in returning,” Wootton said. “I expect all to come back.”
Wootton said he has not received any nomination forms for the management board executive positions.
Now in its eighth year, there has been some concern that the Fetish Fair, which draws an estimated 30,000 people, may be under threat.
Despite rising costs, Wootton says unequivocally that the event is going ahead for 2011 as planned, and unsanitized.
“Not at all. No, the Fetish Fair is a go for next summer,” he stresses. “We are plotting an event for August. It’s in the budget. But we are looking at better ways to support it financially.”
Although he won’t mention any names, he says, certain area businesses don’t want to be associated with fetish or sex.
“If I owned a restaurant, I’m not sure I’d want someone standing next to it in a diaper, and I’ve had problems trying to work that out,” Wootton admits. “I think we’ve been really successful with Fetish Fair over the last couple years only because we’ve been trying to reach out to straight people across the city who come to the event.
“[Fetish Fair] definitely defines the Village as a queer, sexual, expressive and an imaginative place of happening. Church St is an experience to all of us. And the Village is a haven for people who are a bit different.”
And, of course, like every BIA, the goal is that visitors to the area for the Fetish Fair also stick around to have dinner, drinks or shop along Church St.
For the same reason that some may shy away from Fetish Fair, others embrace its outrageous kinkiness, Wootton says.
“Because Fetish Fair is so sexual, out-there and no-holds-barred, it promotes that aesthetic to the community, and that’s what puts us on the map,” he says. “So we really want to encourage Fetish Fair.”
Another obstacle is the rising costs of the event, he says. This year the CWVBIA spent around $51,000 on the fair, which includes $15,000 to close the street. About $11,000 in revenue was gained through vendor sales, fundraisers on the street, T-shirt sales, sponsors and donations. The event is entirely funded by the CWVBIA.
But some Church St merchants complained that sales were down this year.
“I spoke to six bars and they said that attendance and sales were down from the year before,” Wootton says. “It was raining this year, but only for a short time.”
With the Fetish Fair losing money, he says, organizers may need to look to the provincial or federal government to kick in some extra cash.
But if that happened, Wootton stresses that the fair would not be watered down.
“It’s difficult with a sex event,” he says. “We’re not going to lose any of the edge of Fetish Fair. We’re just going to work it so it works for all communities in the Village, especially the BIA members.”
This year there were 43 vendors at the Fetish Fair, and most were from outside the community, he says.
Wootton says event organizers are not permitted to bring in a beer sponsor to the street because that would drive customers away from the bars and patios.
“Whether that has to change in years to come or not, or if we have to change the event to better accommodate our budget, is something we will have to look at,” he says.
New ways to stage the fetish shows, putting some events in tents and an increased fundraising effort on the street are ideas that the board is currently looking at.
“It’s getting harder to do street festivals,” Wootton says. “We really need to start looking at events that will not cost us quite so much money.”