The weather couldn’t have been better.
But Port Burwell Recreation Society and Port Burwell/Otter Valley Optimists Secretary/Treasurer Deb Travis was still operating under an $11,000 cloud of uncertainty day one of the 29th annual Tub Daze celebration – which apparently does not have a municipality loan guarantee.
“Thirty years is next year, eh?” commented Firefighter/Optimsit/Rec Society member Kevin Baker, in passing.
“Thirty years – we’ll see,” Travis responded. “We’ll try it,” Travis continued early Saturday afternoon on Port Burwell’s East Beach. “That’s all I can say, is we’ll give it a go.”
Tub Daze has undergone significant changes in its three-decade history, since being inspired by a daring Lake Erie crossing in a converted bathtub to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House in London. Annual tub races are long gone, victims of rising insurance premiums. And this year, the annual licensed refreshment tent was cancelled in light of the expense of security requirements. The beer tent wasn’t so much a profit maker says Travis, by the time expenses were covered. But its presence was popular among some attendees and could arguably have been an attendance driver, particularly for Saturday.
Promoting the community and providing a positive event for both tourists and locals has always been the Tub Daze committee’s primary goal. But any profits have stayed within the community for service club initiatives as well as an annual Port Burwell Christmas visit from Saint Nick.
“We’re plugging away,” said Travis, recently returned from a quest for extra volleyballs, rather than cases of refreshments.
There was a solid crowd on the beach Saturday, reflective in part perhaps of the fine weather.
“So far so good,” said Travis. “Lots of people down.”
Less-than-ideal conditions hadn’t put a damper on Friday evening’s teen dance, said Travis.
“Despite the weather, they had 60 kids out.”
But there was a significant dropoff in terms of the popular annual volleyball tournament on the East Beach. Unofficially, 22 teams participated in the 2012 draw, with 14 – short in numbers but certainly not good-spirited competition - signed up as of noon Saturday.
Live music on the beach (The Royal Streets from 6-8 p.m. and Uncertain Children from 8-10 p.m.) was scheduled for that evening, with Sunday, as ever, kicked off via the popular Port Burwell Firefighters’ Pancake Breakfast.
Sunday’s schedule also featured kids’ crafts on the East Beach and more live music (Zach McCabe scheduled from 2-4 p.m. and Dave Bellaire and Friends from 6 p.m. onward) leading up to what arguably has developed into Tub Daze’s signature event, a $10,000 fireworks display courtesy of Victory Fireworks off the Port Burwell pier, beautifully framed and reflected by the area’s unique geography.
“It’s an awesome show, an awesome show,” said Travis. “I’ve heard it’s the best in the area,” she continued, noting visitors come from as far away as Windsor, Hamilton and St. Catharines to take it in. “You know we’re doing something right down here.”
Historically, fireworks viewers have been adequately generous to essentially cover costs for the fireworks display and applied provincial taxes. The sincere hope Saturday appeared to be that an adequate and adequately generous crowd would again be present to close out Tub Daze 2013 with a fiscal as well as pyrotechnical bang.
“When you have to write the $11,000 cheque, it’s nice to know there’s money there,” said Travis, whose annual nervousness is tied to the fact any shortfall means money out of pocket. “It’s not coming from anywhere else.”
Ultimately, the success of the 29th Annual Tub Daze festival will determine whether the committee finds the drive to carry on through number 30.
“We’ll see,” Travis concluded Saturday afternoon. “That’s all I’m saying is we’ll see. I hope so, let’s put it that way: we’ll see – let’s hope so.”