London's SesquiFest boosts bars, eateries, says organizer

More than $200,000 from London and government went into this weekend’s SesquiFest.

Organizers say the money was well worth it.

The five-day festival celebrating the nation’s 150th anniversary featured local musicians, multicultural food vendors, free activities for the public and the coveted Sesqui Dome, a roaming theatre with a special movie about Canada that is making only six Ontario stops.

An estimated 200,000 people took in the events, said Leah Karidas, the Canada 150 London co-ordinator.

“Taking over the streetscape and looking at downtown London as a venue seemed like it was a really successful thing to try out,” said Karidas.

Nearby restaurants also had a bounce, including when Saturday’s heavy rain pushed festival-goers indoors.

“Part of why you have a festival is because you want them to use the businesses around it as well,” said Robin Armistead, manager of culture and municipal policy with the city.

It was evident Londoners took full advantage of the many activities from the lineup that snaked through the area around Budweiser Gardens and the Covent Garden Market every day of the festival.

Karidas said the free concerts were also a big hit, sending crowds to bars and restaurants afterward to keep the party going.

“The businesses and festival had a symbiotic relationship,” said Karidas.

“Many people were on foot, so they ended up exploring stores and restaurants they may not usually go into.”

Sarah Botelho, a local musician and front woman for the indie band POESY, said that having the chance to perform made her feel like she was part of the community.

“It was the first time I really felt like our band was part of London,” she said.

“We’ve performed a decent amount around the GTA, so it was amazing to feel that same big-time music vibe from the Forest City.”

Karidas said the planning for SesquiFest took between two and three years, and that while another festival as large may not occur until Canada’s 200th birthday, it would be worthwhile to look at using downtown London again as a focal point for such events.

shmehta@postmedia.com

twitter.com/ShaluatLFPress

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