The Bridges to Better Business Resilience and Pivots workshops finished with the Tourism Industry panel on Friday, October 30, at 9:00 am. This workshop explored how three tourism businesses were resilient and made quick pivots to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic effects. Our guests were Carol Ann Baxter from Archie’s Family Golf Centre, Chelsea Hope from the Williamstown Fair, and Kylee Tarbell from Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s Thompson Island Cultural Camp.
Archie’s Family Golf Centre
Archie’s Family Golf Centre has been serving a diverse clientele for over 60 years. 2020 was going to be a huge year for Archie’s. They were going to celebrate Carol Ann Baxter’s 20 years of ownership of Archie’s Family Golf Center, with 20 activities planned to happen over the season. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they could not go through with their plans.
There shouldn’t have been anything for Carol Ann to do during the closures in March, but she was busier than ever. Carol Ann played an active role in putting together the case that golf courses could open safely to present to the Ontario Government. When she wasn’t working on that, she communicated with other local Business owners discussing what they were doing for their business during the closures and what safety precautions they were taking. On May 16, it was announced that golf courses could open. Archie’s Family Golf Center was ready to open their doors that same day.
Archie’s Family Golf Centre opened their driving range, diary, and par 3. It wouldn’t be until a month later that they would open the mini-putt, their primary revenue source. When Archie’s Family Golf Centre opened, Carol Ann and her team did not know how to safely run the mini-putt. Carol Ann’s priority was her team’s and clientele’s safety. She also wanted to create an environment where her clientele could feel safe. So the decision was made to delay the re-opening of the mini-putt until they had more information on how to run it safely.
As Carol Ann said, “We hit it out of the park!” They received incredible support from the community. Not only was Archie’s able to keep their whole team working for the season. They hired more students than the previous year. Carol Ann could not have been prouder of her team; hard they worked and how they handle it. They took it on early that the team themselves would be their bubble.
Even though Archie’s is now closed for the season, Carol Ann is planning what she will do on social media for the community since there is nothing without this community.
Thanks to Carol Ann’s hard work, we will enjoy Archie’s Family Golf Centre for many years to come.
The Williamstown Fair is the longest-running fair in Canada; this year was its 209th year. The committee works on planning the fair all year round. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the community was set on figure out a way to operate the fair safely to keep their title. Our guest speaker Chelsea Hope, Board of Directors 1st Vice President of the Williamstown Fair, explained how they did it.
The Board’s first course of action was to postpone the fair’s date to give them more time to prepare. Next, they narrowed down the committee from 30 people to 10 members and started meeting bi-weekly. They created three different options to safely hold the fair and presented these options to the Eastern Ontario Health Unit. The drive-through option was approved.
For the drive-through, the committee constructed displays along the main roads of the fairgrounds. Food stalls were set up at the gate so people could purchase popcorn, cotton candy, candy apples, and other fair treats safely from their car. The committee even organized other aspects of the fair that were not included in the drive-through, such as a digital art show, home and garden classes, horse and cattle shows.
For the horse and cattle shows, they created a system, that was approved by the health unit, where there would be no more than a hundred people on site. Then streamed the shows live on Facebook so people who were interested could still watch the show.
One of the significant challenges that the committee faced was costs. The Williamstown Fair was not making any revenue from land rentals for events, such as wedding bookings. However, they didn’t want to charge an entrance fee for the drive-through. They wanted this to be a net-zero event. To do this, they kept their costs low and took on sponsors. In the end, they came close to their goal, only being $100.00 over.
The committee’s hard work and perseverance paid off. The fair was a success! The community especially loved their main attraction, the drive-through. The committee received great feedback and heard many stories of people going through multiple times. We can’t wait to see what the committee has in store for next year’s Williamstown Fair.
Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s Thompson Island Cultural Camp
The Thompson Island Cultural Camp is one of the tourism sectors that fall under Kylee Tarbell’s, Director of Economic Development, department. The Mohawk Council owns Thompson Island. The campground is approximately 20 acres and is in the vicinity of Summertown, ON. The camp holds many retreats, training, educational, and culture awareness programs. They focus on serving the youth and elderly but have diverse clientele from local to visitors from Japan or Germany.
The camp has almost one million dollars invested in it. This year was going to be their most exciting year yet. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they had to put those plans on hold.
They had many challenges they had to face due to the pandemic. One, they could not open the camp due to all of the unknowns. Second, they didn’t want to lay off the camp staff.
They are well trained for the camp’s needs and are also knowledgeable in traditions and culture. The staff are the ones organizing and planning most of the programs on the Island. Plus, the campground requires yearly repairs and clean up due to the high winds on the Island over the winter season.
Kylee and the camp staff sat down and created a plan on how they would take that cultural knowledge and put it on the mainland. They created the Kaienthóhsera — Akwesasne Garden Initiative. For this project, they focused on food sustainability and cultural value. They created packages of 8’x4’x 1′ raised garden beds with seeds and gave them to 300 households in the community. To help with this project, they hired 45 summer students.
These summer students became Agriculture Ambassadors for the camp. They were trained with agricultural and cultural knowledge for this project. But they also learned so much more. The camp values were corrupted, such as learning about mental and physical health. The training followed what they would have if they were at camp, giving them the best of both worlds, having a summer job and enjoying summer camp.
Needless to say, Kylee and her team have been non-stop during the pandemic. They are now finalizing the construction of a 42-foot-long enclosed boat. This boat will be able to hold 25 passengers once it’s finished. The boat’s purpose is to provide an opportunity for those in the vulnerability sector to enjoy the Thompson Island camp. The boat will also be to give local tours on the St. Lawrence River.
We can’t wait to see what else Kylee and her team are planning for the future of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s Thompson Island Cultural Camp and their community.
Bridges to Better Business Week
Bridges to Better Business Week has drawn to a close. You can catch the recap of the workshops at the following links:
Archie’s Family Golf Centre:
Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s Thompson Island Cultural Camp: