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The Colour$ of money

By Chris Connors – The Cape Breton Post

Fiddles and pipes aren’t the only sounds that are ringing out across
Cape Breton this week as Celtic Colours International Festival hits its
stride. Listen carefully and you can almost hear the hum of cash
registers and swipes of credit cards as thousands of tourists gather to
celebrate the island’s Celtic culture, spending their hard-earned money
on accommodations, food and, of course, entertainment in the process.

And that’s music to the ears of the people who run bed and breakfasts,
gift shops and restaurants in communities across the island where the
tourism industry generates more than $200 million each year and employs
some 5,700 people, either directly or indirectly.

Willie Hunter, who operates the Worn Doorstep bed and breakfast in
Baddeck with his wife Gina, calls Celtic Colours “the greatest tourism
thing we have.”

With each of their four rooms booked since July, he said the festival
is a boon to businesses in his village, which he describes as a beehive
of activity during the nine days of Celtic Colours. By contrast, once
the festival wraps up, “you could fire a cannon in the street and not
hurt anybody,” he said.

“When you consider that we only have 20 weeks for tourism, Celtic
Colours actually added nearly 10 per cent because it’s an extra two
weeks of tourism.”

The story is similar 80 kilometres to the west in Cheticamp where Diane
Poirier of the Co-op Artisanale reports brisk sales of hooked rugs and
other local crafts.

“The Celtic Colours is very good for the area. We get more people in
during this week than we would normally do,” she said, noting that the
neighbouring restaurant has been serving authentic Acadian dishes to
hungry tourists all week. “After the long weekend, that was it. But
since Celtic Colours have been going on, it’s been a lot better.”

As Nova Scotia’s Tourism, Culture and Heritage Minister, Rodney
MacDonald shares in the enthusiasm of those in the tourism trade.

A professional musician who has performed on stages throughout Canada,
the U.S. and Europe and released two albums of fiddle music, the
Inverness MLA said Celtic Colours not only means money (the festival
generated an estimated $5.74 million last year), it capitalizes on one
of province’s greatest assets – its Celtic culture.

“Celtic Colours is tremendous news. It’s great news for the industry;
it means more people staying in hotel rooms; it means more people going
to our restaurants and more people buying our music,” he said. “There’s
just so much happening, and the key to the festival is it’s authentic,
it’s not something that we created, it’s real. And that’s why people
come here for it, for the culture.

“It’s a great opportunity to introduce them to the product that we have available and people come back.”

While Celtic Colours organizers concentrate on assembling a world-
class event, the festival’s economic impact isn’t lost on co- director
Max MacDonald. By drawing in some 6,000 people from outside Cape Breton
each year, he said the festival proves that the island’s rich musical
and cultural legacies are marketable commodities worth preserving.

“If
culture can help create jobs, help maintain jobs, I think that’s just a
wonderful side benefit and it demonstrates the power and the strength
of the culture,” he said. “It is a source of pride for us that the
island is benefiting in many ways by the presence of the festival.”

Copyright © 2005 Cape Breton Post

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