Wasaga Beach bids for winter tourists with snowmobile race
Wasaga Beach is famous for its stunning, long stretch of sand crowded all summer with thousands of tourists.
But now the town is looking at a new way to bring those visitors back in the winter months.
This time of year there isn't much happening along the main strip in Wasaga Beach. Most shops and restaurants are closed and the beach is empty. Nancy McLauchlin manages one of the few hotels that stay open all year.
“If our trails aren't open its very quiet,” she says.
Joe Bickerstaff is with a group planning to bring a new snowmobile drag racing event to Beach Area One the first weekend in January to help bolster tourism during the off season.
“Snowmobiling is a big part of the economics in Wasaga Beach. We are a tourist resort town,” says Bickerstaff. “Of course everyone knows the beach in the summer time, but we want to bring the people back in winter.”
Dubbed ‘Sled Fest,’ the event will feature drag racing and would be sanctioned by the North American Snowmobile Drag Racing Association. It will be open to anyone who has a snowmobile.
Wasaga Beach council gave the event the green-light last night.
George Vadeboncoeur is the town's CAO.
“We do have a long snowmobile history and we look at this event to bring help our businesses that are traditionally slow this time of year,” he says.
Organizers expect 200 sledders to participate and the event to draw up to 3,000 people to the area.
Sandy Smardenka owns one of many businesses hoping to cash in on Sled Fest. Her restaurant depends on snowmobilers when the trails are open.
“It means we're going to be busy. It's all weather driven,” she says. “If we don't have the snow we don't have the tourism.”
McLauchlin is hoping the event will draw large crowds to fill rooms that are usually vacant during this time of year.
“I would love to have us almost full the first weekend in January because that's usually one of the quietest weekends we have in the winter,” she says.
The weather will play a big part of that success but organizers aren't worried. Depending on the conditions it will cost the town anywhere between $10,000 and $45,000 to help build the race track. That’s from money available in the budget.
Sled Fest is scheduled to happen on Jan. 4 and 5, and depending on its success the town will consider whether it should be an annual event.