Canada Day has conquered London's Trafalgar Square for seven straight summers, so organizers have decided to give Central Park a go.
Canada Day in London, which drew a crowd of just under 100,000 last year – triple the crowds at the start – will attempt to add Canada Day in New York City to the festivities this summer, bringing with it Mounties, Canadian music, ball hockey, poutine and other tastes of Canada.
Chad Molleken, an executive with Rainmaker Global Business Development, says his company initially took on organizing Canada Day in London from the Canadian government in 2009 as a "loss leader" for their consulting business.
Instead, Mr. Molleken now spends most of his time organizing the not-for-profit event and little time wooing new clients. "I ended up being seen as Mr. Canada Day," he said.
Mr. Molleken spoke Sunday about the challenges of presenting a particularly Canadian event in the Big Apple.
How do you plan to hook New Yorkers, who are rather noted for their cynicism, with such an earnestly Canadian event? I note one of your acts is Spirit of the West, which is pretty darned Canadian. (In fact they have a song called Far too Canadian.)
You certainly draw on the expat community first, and you draw on sponsors and their networks. It's also the weekend of New York Pride, which includes a run in Central Park. Good weather should bring a good crowd to the park. There's a long tradition of Central Park concerts in the summer. We'll be announcing a headliner that will draw crowds, but we don't actually want huge musical acts. We don't want Canada Day to become just another Justin Bieber concert. Also, food is a big thing with New Yorkers, and we hope to bring some big Canadian chefs to help draw people.
Speaking of food, I imagine there are challenges recreating the Canadian culinary experience in foreign lands. What happened to the poutine in London a couple years ago?
Our cheese curds got held up in customs and went bad, so we had to use regular cheese. Some of the poutine aficionados weren't happy. One year, we had Tim Hortons and people were lined up around Trafalgar Square for Timbits and iced cappuccinos and they were gone in two hours. You never know what's going to take off. Last year, we had a pancake breakfast, and it was a big hit.
Companies such as Research In Motion, Porter Airlines, RBC and Thomson Reuters (a sister company of The Globe and Mail) pick up the tab for this free event now, but it seems to me Canada is the main brand that benefits.
We're hoping to get some government backing for 2017. It will be Canada's 150th anniversary and we're hoping to stage Canada Day in six cities. We're looking at Tokyo, Hong Kong, [Rio de Janeiro], Beijing, among others. Our goal is to have it in iconic locations in iconic cities.
Why is the celebration June 29?
We obviously want to stay ahead of July 4. New Yorkers tend to leave town that weekend anyway. Also, the NHL draft is that day, so we're hoping we can draw on a few star hockey players.
You got it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.