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Children’s Festival faces uncertain future because mechanical rides not allowed inside Victoria Park

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This could be the final year for the Children’s Festival in Victoria Park if city hall continues to enforce a policy that requires the popular event to change its layout.

In 2022 and 2023, the city permitted the mechanical carnival rides to be located inside Victoria Park because Dufferin Avenue and Wellington Street were being used as detour routes around road construction.

This year, city officials did not provide an exemption to the Special Events Policy, so the rides had to return to a closed section of Wellington Street at the tail end of a long line of vendor tents winding through the park.

That change could spell the end of the Children’s Festival.

“Next year, if they don’t give us a change, there’s no way we can operate because the ride operation is a big part of the revenue for this festival,” warned the festival’s operator Doug Hillier. “I don’t get sponsors. I don’t take government funding.”

Chris Watson of Chris’ Beverage Zone said when the rides were positioned in the park, it benefitted everyone.

Carnival rides on Wellington Street as part of the Children’s Festival this weekend, seen on June 14, 2024. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London)

“You could see everything at the same time, so families could go straight from the rides to the vendors and support everyone.” Watson said. “Now they’ve got to walk almost from one side of the park to the other.”

The city told CTV News in a statement that the Special Events Policy balances community events in Victoria Park while maintaining the “integrity of the park.”

Specifically, it states, “We need to balance opportunities for exciting community events with park conditions and character, and wanting to maintain the integrity of the park as a city-wide park, which means minimizing disruptions to turf, trees, and archaeological conditions.”

For the Children’s Festival to return next year, Hillier said he needs to convince city officials that the integrity of the park can be maintained with rides on the grass.

“We are not the ones that are going to create a problem. We are the ones that are going to really try hard to comply with the spirit of why they created that policy,” he added.

The Children’s Festival runs until Sunday, June 16.

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