Crombie’s power play fails as council approves cover charge at Mississauga Ribfest

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie announces redevelopment plans at the corner of Lakeshore Rd. E. and Stavebank Rd. S. on Sept. 24, 2015. (Photo: Kelly Roche/QEW South Post/file)
(Photo: Kelly Roche/QEW South Post/file)

A two-year pilot project allowing Ribfest organizers to charge an entry fee at Celebration Square has been given the go-ahead by city council, despite a last-minute manoeuvre by Mayor Bonnie Crombie before the vote.
“I do have some new information for you, and this may change your mind, um, and you may want to defer this until you can get clarification but I was with Amacon (Tuesday) night and they told me that if you charge an admission fee, they will not sponsor,” Crombie told shocked Rotary Club officials at the Feb. 24 council meeting.
“They do not want to sponsor a ticketed event.”
The festival’s formal name is the Amacon Mississauga Rotary Ribfest, meaning the development giant is its title sponsor.
Rotary organizers went to City Hall for permission to charge $2 per person or $5 per family during the four-day event’s two busiest days in 2016 and 2017.
With hopes of drawing 100,000 people in total, and collecting the user fee from about 50,000 attendees, money raised will be donated to local charities.

Organizers weren’t buckling in spite of Crombie’s revelation.
“You’re alright with us calling the vote, then? So you will have a ticketed event and you may lose your sponsorship … ? Alright, we’re calling the vote,” said Crombie.

Council then voted in favour of the motion, outnumbering Crombie, Ward. 4 Coun. John Kovac and Ward 7 Coun. Nando Iannicca.

“Rotary Ribfest is pleased that the partnership we have with the City of Mississauga has created an opportunity for our event to approach fundraising in a creative way,” said Ribfest 2016 chairwoman Lucie Shaw.
Here’s how it will work this summer: Ribfest is running Jul. 14-17, with cover being charged Jul. 15-16, or Friday and Saturday.
“This admission will be returned to our community, directly supporting Rotary’s local partners and charities,” said Shaw.


Ward 6 Coun. Ron Starr – a Rotarian – told the QEW South Post he supports the efforts of the Rotary Clubs and wasn’t aware of the ‘new information’ Crombie disclosed.
Crombie’s “whole comment was a surprise to everybody,” said Starr, adding “I’m not sure what the purpose of it was.”
All told, the outdoor venue at 300 City Centre Dr. will be closed for eight days to allow set up and tear down for Ribfest, including the upper square fountain where children cool off.
Some councillors, and Crombie, protested shutting down the fountain in the peak of summer.
Ward 9 Coun. Pat Saito, though, pointed out the “sacred” fountain is always blocked off for Canada Day festivities.
“If we don’t want to allow events that are going to bring thousands of people” to City Centre, “then let’s not let anyone use the Square,” said Saito, noting areas, such as the Ribfest children’s carnival, are exempt from the admission fee.
Crombie, and other politicians, brought up the issue of setting a precedent for future requests, and the possibility of being rained out.
Nonetheless, “to me, it’s a good trial experiment to try it out,” said Starr, adding Rotary has “never asked the city for money before.”


Speaking of money, Amacon’s VP of Toronto operations, Frank Da Silva, confirmed discussing sponsorship with Crombie.
“We don’t want our name associated with something that we put on for the people … where any of that cover charge would be deemed coming to us,” said Da Silva.
“So it’s a question of perception and what it’s about, or else what’s the point of having title sponsors if you’re going to charge a door admission?”
But Starr wasn’t buying Da Silva’s explanation.
“I find that hard to believe,” said Starr.
“You want to have the event be as successful as possible.”
Besides, Starr said, “there was always the ability to collect money voluntarily” over the last several years.
Regardless, a sponsorship decision hasn’t been made, according to Da Silva.
“In retrospect, what the Rotary has done is charged a very small fee,” he said.
“I understand some of their concerns but I haven’t been able to sit down with the president of Rotary at this point.”
A request for the dollar value of the title sponsorship wasn’t provided by Shaw.
In a dozen years, more than $800,000 has been donated to local organizations via Ribfest.
Crombie is an honourary Rotarian.


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