Ontario Makes Historic Investment in Safe, Innovative Festivals and Events

Ontario Makes Historic Investment in Safe, Innovative Festivals and Events

Funding will help reconnect Ontarians with their communities and support local economies

August 04, 2021

Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries

TORONTO – The Ontario government is investing nearly $50 million to help festival and event organizers deliver innovative and safe experiences that allow people to safely reconnect with their communities. This one-time funding increase – more than double the annual funding provided to the festival and event sector in the past – will ensure the long-term success of the festival and event sector.

Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, was joined by Michael Thompson, Chair of the Economic and Community Development Committee, City of Toronto to provide details about the announcement today at the Grand Bizarre in Toronto.

“For more than a year, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted tourism and culture – two major industries that bring people together and our communities to life,” said Minister MacLeod. “Increasing our annual support for festival and events will give the sector a much-needed boost as we continue to deal with the effects of COVID-19. Our government is supporting organizations that are finding new ways to safely engage and reconnect Ontarians with their local communities while creating local jobs.”

The government is providing $43 million to support 439 festivals and events through the Reconnect Festival and Event Program, representing a record number of supported events in the program’s 14-year history.

The Reconnect program (known as Celebrate Ontario prior to the COVID-19 pandemic) was developed to help festival and event organizers adapt to new public health measures with virtual, drive-through and other safe offerings. This ensures support is directed to community-based events with safe, innovative experiences, while creating opportunities that encourage Ontarians to reconnect with the beauty and diversity of their community in new ways.

This investment also includes $6 million to Celebrate Ontario Blockbuster events. The Celebrate Ontario Blockbuster program supports municipalities and organizations in Ontario to host large-scale, high-impact signature events that draw significant tourist attendance and increase tourist spending, increase Ontario’s profile through media and broadcast exposure and provide significant economic impact and legacy development for the province.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, every $1 of provincial funding invested through Celebrate Ontario (the model for the Reconnect program) resulted in almost $21 of visitor spending. The impact of the 2021/22 Celebrate Ontario Blockbuster and Reconnect Festival and Event Program investment is estimated to generate over $1 billion in economic benefit across the province.

Quick Facts

  • Tourism is a key economic driver in Ontario – in 2018, the tourism industry supported more than 390,000 jobs and generated over $36 billion of economic activity for the province.
  • Reconnect Festival and Event Program funding may be used for eligible expenses such as programming and production, marketing, mobile applications and website development, and making sure health and safety measures are put in place to keep audiences safe.
  • As announced in the 2021 Budget, Ontario is investing more than $400 million over the next three years in new initiatives to support tourism, culture, sport and recreation sectors. This builds on investments of $225 million announced earlier, bringing the total support for these sectors to more than $625 million since the pandemic began.


“A strong recovery will be about jobs but it will also be about spirit and a sense of celebration. The festivals and other significant events funded by this announcement will create and preserve many jobs at a time we need them, and it will offer a new lease on life to artists, organizers, events and festivals which are key to raising our spirits in the City of Toronto and beyond. I want to thank Minister MacLeod and the Government of Ontario for making these investments. These significantly increased funds will help us to get back together again, to look back at what we have been through and to remind ourselves how lucky we are as we go forward into a bright future.”

– John Tory
Mayor of Toronto

“This is an important investment for the tourism and culture sector in municipalities across Ontario that have been devastated by the pandemic. The support by the government of Ontario through the Reconnect Festival and Event Program is allowing communities and the businesses that rely on them to get back to rebound, and soon thrive.”

– Jim Watson
Mayor of Ottawa

“Toronto’s festivals and events are major economic, tourism and cultural drivers for the City and the province. The COVID-19 pandemic hit this sector especially hard, making it essential that governments provide increased support to restore it to health. The funding announced today will help re-energize the sector, relaunch events and re-establish the economic multipliers that make the sector a major contributor to the City’s economy. We thank the province for committing to this bold and much needed investment.”

– Toronto Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson
Chair, Economic and Community Development

“The Reconnect Festival and Event Program has been an integral part of our industry’s ability to adjust to operating and innovating in a pandemic setting. In supporting existing events and helping to found new ones, this program is not only protecting Ontarians’ jobs, but also driving interest for visitors to return to Ontario to reconnect and experience what our communities have to offer. The increased funding envelope announced today will help protect our double bottom line, and TIAO is excited to experience the festivals and events that are supported through this program. We thank Minister Lisa MacLeod for her unwavering commitment and dedication to our industry in these unprecedented times as we encourage Ontarians to rediscover Ontario.”

– Chris Bloore
President and CEO, Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO)

“Over the years, Celebrate Ontario has helped us achieve a Guinness World Record for the World’s Longest Calzone, host the World Pizza Eating Championship with the legendary professional eater Joey ‘Jaws’ Chestnut and bring in some amazing musicians. This year, the support from the Reconnect Program will be the most important as we recover with a focus on rediscovering Ontario. This money will be spent in Ontario, provide jobs to Ontarians, and support Ontario businesses while our events showcase the best that Ontario has to offer.”

– Remo Palladini
Chairman of Vaughan Pizza Fest’s Pizza in the Park

“Reconnect helped support applicants such as Front Row Center, an event marketing agency that has been connecting bands, brands and fans since 2007. As a result of the pandemic, our agency quickly adapted to create “virtual” music festivals such as The Summer House Party. Through the support of this ministry, the Reconnect program, and great Ontario-based companies like Canadian Tire, we were able to amplify our July 1st event to reach a national audience. The festival generated more than 3 million media impressions and almost 50,000 music fans from coast to coast got to watch a live stream concert with Serena Ryder, Tim Hicks and many more great Ontario artists. FRC is feeling really good about the future of live music and events in Ontario and is looking forward to being able to get rocking once again and bring The Summer House Party to a live audience of thousands of music fans next year.”

– Kevin Goodman

“We are thrilled to have the support of Ontario’s Reconnect Program so that Italian Week Ottawa can continue to showcase Ottawa’s vibrant Italian community and culture. This funding will ensure that our organization and programming remain strong and successful as we look to include visitors in person next year.”

– Lydia Di Francesco
Chair of Strategic Partnerships and Outreach for Italian Week Ottawa

“Receiving Reconnect funding will help us safely re-open and expand our events this fall and winter. This critical support allows us to further engage local artists and suppliers for Haunting Season and A Country Christmas so that Ontarians can gather and rediscover the beauty and creativity of our province.”

– Mark Saunders
Owner and Director of Fun, Saunders Farm

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