Parking Fees Drive Highland Games Out of Cobourg and Into Port Hope

In Editor Choice, Local

After 59 years in Cobourg the Highland Games are moving a wee bit down the road this year.

The Games will take place on the same dates as always, June 14 and 15, 2024, but they will be called the Northumberland Scottish Festival & Highland Games and will be held at the Port Hope Agricultural Park.

President George Cackette sat down with Today’s Northumberland after the not-for-profit group made the decision.

“It started about three years ago when the Town of Cobourg decided to put a $40 a day fee round about the park.”

For years previous it was free parking throughout the area to D’Arcy Street.

“Then somebody from the Town of Cobourg decided to come along and put in parking fees.”

The first year the Highland Games Committee found out two-weeks in advance of the event.

The fee for parking was $40 for the day or a ticket was $160.00.

Cackette said volunteers heard a lot of complaints from the participants.

“We still had people coming, but the counts were definitely down.”

With the number of people down, people weren’t spending the money they had previously which Cackette attributes to the $40 parking fee and possibly COVID had just ended.

Volunteers for the Games used to get 60 free parking tickets. When one volunteer had completed their shift, they would give the ticket to the next volunteer so there was no duplication.

Last year volunteers received 50 tickets and they must supply the name, address, phone number, colour of vehicle, make of vehicle and license plate to the town.

“We had to contact all of our volunteers (which number over 100) and pick 50 people.”

Cackette said one woman took her husbands car and not her own and was fined $160.00.

The town now said they are only allowed 20 passes and have to pay $20.00.

So for 40 passes it would cost the games $800.00.

“And all the other volunteers – tough luck.”

“We did get lots of complaints about the parking and basically said we’re not coming back because of the parking.”

“Enough is enough.”

Cobourg also wanted a police check for all food vendors. Cackette explained it didn’t make sense to just have a police check on the vendor, but not the employees working for them.

With approximately 4,500 people visiting the games it brings tourists to discover Cobourg.

“Even the Pipe Band Society told us we’re one of the nicest Highland Games out there.”

Port Hope doesn’t offer a beach area, but it offers a bigger park at the Port Hope Agricultural Park.

With the park being substantially bigger they are hoping to attract a bigger crown and another bonus is the parking is free for over 400 cars.

“I don’t know where the town came up with all the stuff about the parking – it’s killed it.”

Along with the free parking at the Port Hope Agricultural Park the Games don’t have to purchase a fence for $12,000 like they used too in Cobourg.

Cackette and representatives met with the family of David Carr who started the Games in Cobourg and told them the reasons why they were moving to Port Hope.

Once it was explained the Carr family understood completely and appreciated being informed.

A Military Tattoo will take place on Friday, June 14 at the Jack Burger Sports Complex in honour of the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force. There are plans on bands coming from Hamilton, two brass bands and six or seven pipe bands.

For several years, the Highland Games had been struggling to keep afloat, and were in debt “big time,” but Cackette said they now have money in the bank and are comfortable.

“We’ve proven our strategy has worked these last few years to get to where we are.

Cackette said when it was announced the change in venue on Tuesday, he was floored in 24-hours over 800 people had visited the website and over 10,000 people visited the Facebook site.

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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