It’s about the glue. You know, the stuff that holds things together. Like the stuff that transforms a town-sized group of strangers into something else. A community.
Bolton’s Midnight Madness was a great example of glue. Super-glue in fact. Every summer, in the space of just one hot August night, it brought out thousands of people into the downtown core and created community.
Because you know community isn’t something that just happens. It gets created. By those who love theirs enough to work at it, nurture it along, and help it thrive. People like Ralph Ransom who initially made Midnight Madness an event that became part of Bolton’s identity. People like Jimmy Pountney.
Pountney is someone who was, and still is, devastated by the demise of Bolton’s Midnight Madness. He had been the whirling dervish at its core for the last several years. He was the organizer that enthusiastically planned, managed, and worked all the details so that the event not only happened but, generally speaking, just plain rocked.
So how does an almost 4-decades old signature event just disappear? By lack of support and funding by the event’s sponsor, which has historically been the Bolton BIA.
With each new term of Town Council a new BIA Board is also elected, by its members, and formed along with the 2 Councillors for Bolton ward 5. The majority of the current BIA Board, including one of the 2 Bolton Councillors, have chosen not to support the Midnight Madness event.
Pountney feels the majority of the current Board members have a “me first” attitude, always thinking about what specifically benefits themselves and their own businesses first.
“The previous BIA Boards understood that to be truly successful you can’t always put yourself first. If you focus on your community and on making the other businesses in the BIA successful then it follows that you (the business owners who sit on the BIA Board) will be as well. That basic truth evades the majority of the current Board who, perhaps worth noting, do not live in Bolton” says Pountney. “I feel we have gone from a community-centred Board to a self-centred Board.”
Bolton residents first noticed something had changed back in 2015 when the newly-elected BIA Board cut the budget for Midnight Madness by several thousand dollars. “They did that by chopping most of the kids stuff, likely the bouncy castles, circus performers, and so on” says Pountney. “To me that demonstrated how little they understood the event. The heart and soul of Midnight Madness is families.”
For the first time in memory Midnight Madness was not the fantastic event the community had come to love, and the BIA received some negative press and honest criticism. “And that gave them just what they needed to justify cancelling it altogether in 2016” says Pountney.
“Those of us who support the event tried again in 2017 but this time their justification for not holding it was construction. To me that was just another excuse. If you can still put up street barricades and safely mark any off-limit areas you can go ahead and hold an event. I really feel this is about these particular business-owners not being willing to embrace an event and make the effort to go out and meet and greet the community. If they did that they might be able to see the value in it.”
Listening to the word in the community and on social media it’s evident Bolton feels hijacked. And the community wants its event back. So, like a phoenix, can Midnight Madness rise from the ashes? What will it take?
Pountney says first of all reach out to your Councillors, and be persistent, but not obnoxious. Let them know that to see a decades-old event that is part of the fabric of Bolton just disappear is not acceptable. Pountney says one Bolton Councillor has been extremely supportive but the other not at all. “Let her know this is bigger than her” he adds.
Secondly, remember that the event CAN go on without the Bolton BIA. All that’s missing is the funding. Pountney says Midnight Madness had been averaging a cost of about $18,000. “There’s a lot involved” he explains. “Regional road closures, paid duty police officers for diverting traffic at both ends of town, licenses, insurance, bouncy castles, circus performers, stages, sound equipment, musicians, chair rentals, street sweepers and cleaners for after the event, and so on.”
So where does one find one or more sponsors that will donate close to $20,000 for a community event?
“Locally I hope” says Pountney. “I have the playbook and the contacts and the energy to make this event happen. But I’m not interested in funding from a developer from Woodbridge. Or money from someone who wants favours down the road, say during the next election for example. Ralph would never have done that. And neither will I.”