With the coming of 2010, the Mount Forest District Chamber of Commerce moves from one milestone year to another. Having just celebrated it’s 60th anniversary, the chamber is already preparing for the 10th anniversary of its’ most successful event, the Mount Forest Fireworks Festival.
Over the six decades since it came into existence under the Board of Trade Act in 1949, the Mount Forest chamber has evolved from a downtown retail-focussed body into a multi-faceted organization serving all sectors of the
“We are a resource centre for business and the community,” said Crystal Seifried, the chamber’s office manager. In fact, one of the chamber’s biggest projects each year is the production of an all-encompassing community, visitors and business guide. The 60-page guide, produced in partnership with the Township of Wellington North and the Arthur Chamber of Commerce, “is the best directory you can get,” for a municipality, states Seifried. With information on everything from municipal services to local events, as well as a complete directory of local business, the guide is an invaluable resource on all things Wellington North.
Originally, known as the Mount Forest Chamber of Commerce, the group today has 135 members, and now takes in much of the surrounding district. While the number represents about one-third of the eligible area businesses, Seifried feels even more could benefit from membership.
“A lot of businesses are already busy,” she says, noting they may not feel they need referral services from the chamber. However, she notes, the chamber can provide those businesses with a wide range of resources and connections, through their involvement with government, the Ontario chamber, tourism (the chamber office, which is open year-round, also functions as the community’s visitor information centre) and other organizations.
The chamber actively promotes partnerships with other area chambers, associations, municipalities and other levels of government. They also help co-ordinate the annual Saugeen STARS in Business Awards and organize a local Spring Excellence Awards program for Citizen, and Young Citizen of the Year, as well as the Arny Feairs Customer Service Award. An annual Christmas shopping promotion is another chamber effort on behalf of local business.
Perhaps the chamber’s most significant accomplishment in recent years is the creation of a genuine tourism event – the annual Fireworks Festival. It’s no secret that a major festival is an attraction many communities aspire to develop, something to keep visitors returning in large numbers year after year. In the past, such events as a Hat Festival and a Medieval Festival had been run with some success, however they didn’t develop into long-term annual events. The Fireworks Festival is a chamber of commerce initiative, which grew out of a sidewalk sale-style event called Summer Fun Days. In 2000, the event included fireworks, which were such a hit, the event exploded into a full-blown festival.
“It’s really put us on the map in a big way,” says Seifried, pointing out that last year’s festival drew an estimated 30,000 people over the course of the three-day event.
The festival includes activities geared to people of all ages and interests, from car enthusiasts to music lovers to young children. That’s what makes it work, according to Seifried.
“I think the success of the Fireworks Festival has everything to do with it being totally family oriented,” she states.
This year’s festival is set for July 16-18 and is part of a busy line-up of summer events throughout Mount Forest and the surrounding area.
A newspaper article from March 17, 1949, which includes a list of the first officers elected for what was then called The Mount Forest Chamber of Commerce, concludes with the following statement: “With full co-operation of all concerned, Mount Forest will now be in a position to compete with other municipalities and, without doubt, the fruits of a real live organizations such as this will soon
Clearly such optimism was well placed, as the chamber continues to keep its home community competitive and “on the map” in a challenging 21st century business climate.