Beach goers enjoy the sand along Sylvan Lake. (Red Deer Advocate file photo.)

Sylvan Lake’s tourism season kicks off — without much sun or heat

Summer is here, where are the beach days?

The tourism season is off to a wet start in Sylvan Lake.

We’re talking cold rain and drizzle — not time spent swimming or enjoying water sports.

Greg Baumann, co-owner of Sylvan Lake Boat Rentals, said a lot of people have inquired about renting his two wake-surf boats and personal watercrafts, but there hasn’t been a lot of follow through after they check weather forecasts and notice a series of rainy days ahead.

“It’s not the greatest start to the year,” said Baumann, who believes part of the problem is that forecasts don’t consider that a portion of the day could be warm and sunny.

But Canada Day was a good example of how things can turn on a dime.

The temperature dropped more than 10 C between 1 and 2 p.m. And the abrupt change from hot to stormy, led thousands of people to scatter off the beach before the planned cake cutting for Canada’s birthday.

“The weather is affecting things for sure,” said Kirsten Shima, culture and tourism co-ordinator for the Town of Sylvan Lake. But then smoke from forest fires was a hindrance last summer, she noted.

Town officials are trying to mitigate the impacts of weather by holding weekly activities away from the beach.

There are Food Truck Thursdays on Centennial Street, as well as Movie Night Thursdays at dusk in Centennial Park. The Friday Farmers’ Market runs from 4 to 7:30 p.m. at Lakeshore Park (site of the former water slides).

And a Saturday Centennial Street Market unrolls weekly in front of Town Hall.

Shima said there are musical performances, art demonstrations, food vendors, free yoga and special events such as teddy bear picnics and tea parties.

A lot of programming and activities are planned throughout the summer, she added — including the Jazz at the Lake music festival Aug. 16 to 18, which draws fans from Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer.

Vicki Kurz, the town’s economic development officer, said at least 38 per cent of Sylvan Lake’s tourists come from Alberta’s two major centres, while 35 per cent hail from Red Deer and area.

Twenty-two per cent are from other parts of central Alberta, while three per cent are international travellers and two per cent come from out of province, according to a 2014 visitor survey.

Plans are underway for a new survey, to be completed as part of a tourism economic impact assessment by September.

When it comes to measuring economic impacts, Kurz said numbers are crunched through a formula, but many factors must be considered — including something as incidental as how many boat rentals are available on the lake.

She believes boosting tourism means presenting opportunities for varied experiences — such as having a meal on a double-decker pontoon boat that tours Sylvan Lake, or going wake boarding behind a power boat, or riding a personal watercraft.

“Everything is just getting rolling now, so the weather had better co-operate,” she said.

Unfortunately, rain and/or thundershower are in the forecast for the next six days.

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