Foster Lyle, staff
A few short weeks ago it was announced that Winnipeg’s annual Zombie Walk would not occur this year. The event, which attracts thousands of Winnipeg residents to dress as the “undead” and take to the streets for a lively, fun-filled walk, was closed down by its organizers, who said that the cost for the event had become too high.
The City of Winnipeg requires that street events with an attendance of 800 people or more obtain a use-of-street permit, as well as recoup the costs incurred by public works-traffic services. These costs would come in at nearly $4,000 for the two-to-three-hour event.
The costs do not end there, though. It is likely that the Zombie Walk would require off-duty Winnipeg Police Service personnel to be present, which in some cases costs close to $100 an hour, as well as waste management services such as portable toilets, and garbage and recycling receptacles.
It is easy to see why this event and many other small events are cancelled, or never develop. The cost of the city’s regulations is just too high unless events find ways to secure revenues from their participants. For many community events, this is simply not an option. The Zombie Walk is a casual, come-and-go event that is open to anyone and everyone. It is a chance for individuals to get out onto the street and experience our city at night. Charging for services like this does not seem fair and, even if justified, the fees are too much for most to afford.
The city needs to look at what these events promote within Winnipeg. The Zombie Walk and dozens of similar events foster culture and community while providing a safe environment. Careful planning goes into events like this to ensure a safe route is followed, and that individuals are not put at risk. Additionally, by travelling as a group, the chance of violent crime is minimized, allowing individuals to feel safe in and explore areas of the city they may not have otherwise.
However, the city’s regulations are not the sole cause of event cancellations. The province of Manitoba, which distributes liquor and lottery permits, also has a difficult system for small community events to go through. The process of applying for a liquor permit is complex, with over a dozen different licences available for a range of poorly-defined events. The task of applying for lottery permits is even more arduous and confusing. Similar to event regulation, this liquor permit process makes it harder for individuals to host and take part in events that are beneficial to the community and enjoyed by its residents.
Though the city and province may credit these regulations with keeping us safe—as safety concerns was a cited factor in the walk’s cancellation—it seems more likely that they have a stake in the revenues they draw in from individuals who hold events, or it is simply easier for them to prevent some of these events from ever getting off the ground. The city and province should be looking at how they can help event organizers plan their events in a safe manner, so that communities can come together and celebrate our amazing city.