NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE – A white-gloved cupping of rare colonial artifacts. Group outings with period meals. Being a War of 1812 soldier for a day.
Even a supervised cannon firing as part of a paying group.
All could soon be part of a new wave of revenue generation at Fort George National Historic Site in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“Fort George is constantly looking at ways to innovate and enhance existing programs,” Parks Canada representative Jarred Picher explained. “It keeps it new and fresh.”
It’s also a part of an overall revamp on how Parks Canada sites seek out new revenue ideas and attractions, as recent overall funding sags and visitor numbers decline.
Picher notes Fort George is bucking that trend, with its budget not cut lately. Visitors are on the increase as War of 1812 bicentennial celebrations continue.
Last year, for the first-time ever, it had 100,000 guests.
He gives examples of new ideas and money-makers this year — and other proposed initiatives in coming seasons to keep the momentum going.
A “white-glove experience” lets vistors get a hands-on feel of War of 1812-era items in a supervised setting.
Its corporate program is also ramping up, with performances like period trials called Bloody Assizes taking place last year.
“The idea is for corporate Canada to expand beyond the boardroom and experience these unique places,” Picher said. “Here, they can have their corporate events and team-building exercises.
“Another experience we’re proposing is people, if they really want to, can fire a cannon… or a period musket,” he said,
The idea, “to get people connected to these places and stories,” Picher said. “Instead of coming and reading (about history), its about feeling the sights, sounds and smells of these places.”
Picher said there’s been a freeze on Parks Canada fees in recent years, with a national public consultation complete on what should be done at the federal agency’s sites. “Parks Canada is known for its innovation,” he adds.
“Now it’s about connecting with Canadians today … and ensuring we have programs and offerings that are relevant to them, so they can connect to these place on their terms.”
Picher said all revenue generated at Fort George gets reinvested at the site in efforts to protect it and to bolster programming.
Prices for any new experiences won’t be known until Parks Canada proposals make their way through the parliamentary process.
- Butler’s Barracks is another member of the Fort George family to haves sought out fresh revenue sources.
- This summer is the second to hold marquee concerts at the sprawling site.
- Last year’s drew thousands, with classic Canadian band Tragically Hip as the headliner.
- The June 29 concert in this second event will feature St. Catharines native Dallas Green topping the show as City and Colour.
- “Youth are a key target market for Parks Canada,” Parks’ representative Jarred Picher told Niagara-on-the-Lake town council last March.
- He said the large-scale concert would create awareness about the national historical site and is “a significant revenue generator” for the federal agency’s programs.