Beetles invade Embrun
The 26th annual Volksfest featured all kinds of Volkswagens, Audis and Porsches at Yahoo Park in Embrun on Sun., Aug. 13.      Vetter photo

Candice Vetter
Villager Staff
EMBRUN – Volksfest, the annual festival of Volkswagens which attracts hundreds of people to Embrun every August, almost had the plug pulled on this year’s event at the last minute, says co-organizer Elva Patterson Rutters.

She contacted The Villager on Thurs., Aug. 10, about the event which was scheduled for Sun., Aug. 13, and said she didn’t know if the event would be able to proceed.

She said the Township of Russell informed her in an email sent the evening before that a copy of an insurance certificate showing $5-million in liability and damage coverage needed to be in the Township’s office that day. Rutters then spent much of Thursday trying to obtain coverage and found that quotes would not be available until Monday, which was obviously too late.

The Villager called the Township office and spoke to Sonia Clement in the Recreation Dept. who said that the insurance certificate was required and that had been the case throughout her employment at the Township office.

The Villager has received pleas for help on this matter a few times. In every case the problem was resolved before the event, but caused panic among organizers. A few years ago, Township Council decided to enforce the requirement for insurance certificates for events held on Township property, which were not Township events. The decision was made at the insistence of the insurer, and it was supported by Council. “The big thing is liability,” said Mayor Pierre Leroux in an interview with The Villager on Fri., Aug. 11. “Our insurer says if it’s not a Township event then the organizers must be insured.”

This has been a surprise to local organizers, many of whom have been caught unawares about the requirement, which is not only hard to fulfill when very close to an event, but is also an additional, unbudgeted expense.

Clement said that usually insurance certificates are processed very quickly and offered to help Rutters find an insurer that day. In the end, Paquette Insurance of Casselman was able to get through quickly to PAL, and get a certificate on time, at a cost of $236. Rutters stressed that Volksfest is not a profitable event, and that the $5 registration fees cover only the most basic expenses. It was the timing that caused the most problems though. “It cost me a day of my life to ensure Volksfest happened this year,” she said. “With the help of Diane from Paquette Insurance providing a contact person at PAL Insurance, I was able to provide $5-million liability insurance to Sonia Clement the program co-ordinator for the Township of Russell at 3:50 p.m. – just 10 minutes before cutoff time. Just in time to save Volksfest for 2017.”

Volksfest is invaluable to the area, bringing in hundreds of cars and lots of visitors, and providing extensive business to stores in Embrun, such as the Co-op Independent, Tim Hortons, Dairy Queen, and others, as evidenced by the full parking lots in the village on Sunday. Local campgrounds also benefit as many participants coming from a distance make it a weekend tradition.

In an interview on Mon., Aug. 14, Celine Guitard, Director of Parks and Recreation, at the Township said, “We try to be diligent on our side – we try to communicate what we need. Sometimes people are booking a year in advance and they forget details like insurance or that a Council resolution is needed for a special event liquor license.” She said they had also sent out an email in April to everyone who had booked events through the summer to remind them of what was required, including at least a month’s notice (longer in the summer as Council does not sit in July) for the license.

Rutters said their event had been booked immediately after last year’s, but Guitard said they did not have a booking for Volksfest, and if they had they would have sent organizers that email. It was fortunate for everyone involved that Yahoo Park had not been otherwise booked.

Guitard stressed that organizations should be looking at requirements a couple of months beforehand, if possible. Both she and the mayor pointed out that most service organizations like the Lions, Kin or Optimist clubs have existing insurance which covers their events, but must still provide the certificate to the Township.

Guitard said that costs of insuring events depends on the risk associated with particular events. In the case of Volksfest there was no liquor and the cars were parked so visitors could walk around them, reducing risk, but there were cars entering and leaving at the beginning and end which has risk potential.

“When we rent facilities, if something happens somebody gets sued,” said Leroux. “This has been a big issue with municipalities recently. At a conference I was just at I heard about a municipality which was held one per cent responsible for an event, but was held 100 per cent responsible for damages.” He also said, “We’re doing this to protect taxpayers’ interests, but if there is miscommunication that is something the Township can improve.”

In the end, the event was blessed by perfect weather and plenty of participation. Said Rutters, “Things went very well with a very good turnout. The club from Ottawa Gatineau sent the largest contingent of cars. Cars also hailed from Vermont. A new influx of European cars was also present as well as Volkswagen models – cars, trucks and motorcycles. A group of Porsche drivers left their vehicles in the park and walked eight blocks to try a restaurant they heard about – talk about trust in the running of the show. I believe the earliest model was a 1954, right up to the latest models present.”

Rutters also reported attendance by folks just viewing was at par, and in the first year of having a student volunteer he did a great job. “However with the added cost of insurance there was insufficient revenue to pay for the plaques and the insurance. Such losses are born by organizer Shawn Rutters out of his pocket. Next year the cost of entry will have to go up.” But she ends with, “Everyone reported having a great time.”