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Game on for 2010 Church Street Fetish Fair

While the annual festival is popular, its costs have been increasing steadily

Credit: Matt Mills

The Church Street Fetish Fair will go ahead as planned this summer despite the rising costs of producing it, organizers and funders say.

The free annual event, which promotes visibility of the leather, fetish and kink communities, is financed by the Church-Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area (CWVBIA).

While the annual festival is popular, its costs have been increasing steadily. This year, organizers are looking to offset some of these expenses through fundraising.

“It’s costing more,” says the fair’s managing producer, David Wootton. “Costs in street closure permits, tents, barricades, equipment. That all goes up every year. In order to do the fair as we’ve done it for the past couple of years, we have to set the budget for Fetish Fair at $55,000. That’s everything from staging to labour to advertising to the logistics of the event and website. But it’s pretty minimum. We’ve cut everything down to the wire.”

The fair’s budget, which Wootton says is the same as last year’s, was approved at a Mar 1 CWVBIA board meeting. Wootton says he is hopeful $15,000 can be raised — money that can be directed partially towards other gaybourhood events as well.

“We hope to raise additional money, not only for Fetish Fair but for other Church-Wellesley Village BIA events,” says Wootton. “The BIA has now hired a fundraising development consultant who will seek out additional funds for Fetish Fair and Halloweek.”

The Fetish Fair, which has always been fully funded by the CWVBIA, has never relied on sponsors. Wootton acknowledges it might be difficult to raise money.

“It is challenging for two reasons: because the BIA has always supported the full cost of the fair, so we’ve never had fundraisers involved before; and also because of the fact that we don’t necessarily want to bring a liquor supplier to the street because the event is to draw business to the merchants who already exist on the street and not to distract from them.”

While the Fetish Fair is funded by the CWVBIA, it’s always been run by a group of dedicated volunteers. Bob Watkin, one of the fair’s chief organizers, echoes Wooton’s sentiments that beer tents would eat into Church St business.

“That is something for the BIA as a whole to discuss,” says Watkin. “Of course, one of the major reasons for the fair is to attract business to various businesses on the street such as bars and restaurants, so, until such time as it’s perceived as being beneficial, I don’t think there will be a beer tent.”

Last year’s fair — which drew an estimated 30,000 people — saw Church St closed to cars between Gloucester and Alexander to allow for stage performances, a street-vendor marketplace, community information booths and extended patio areas for local restaurants and bars. Wootton estimates this year’s event, scheduled for Sun, Aug 15 will draw a similar crowd, if not a larger one.

“The event has grown in popularity and size,” Wootton says. “The BIA has also decided to expand the event, bring in more vendors, which of course means bringing in more tables and tents and raises costs. But we’re working on imaginative approaches to sponsorship. And there are other companies out there such as condom and lubrication companies, products that are associated with the Village that we may be able to approach.”