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Point of View




January 7th 2015

New Year's Eve Party in Queen Victoria Park Attendance Skewed 


By all accounts, the 2014-2015 New Year Eve party in Queen Victoria Park was a smashing success. Talented acts including Keith Urban, Nick Jonas, Lights, and Shawn Mendez carried the night and were an attraction for both young and old alike.

This was the sixth year that this event was primarily sponsored by Global TV's - ET Canada. In addition the yearly party is sponsored by The Niagara Parks Commission, the City of Niagara Falls, Niagara Fallsview Casino, the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and other BIA groups.

This year Global introduced three new co-sponsors’: Special K, Rdio and Las Vegas. The concert costs an estimated $3 million dollars.

The show was hosted by ET Canada's Cheryl Hickey, Rick Campanelli and Sangita Patel. Throughout the evening the hosts estimated the crowds to be 40 thousand, 60 thousand to a maximum of 90 thousand. That's their job and they did it very well.

Newspaper reports indicate that more than 60,000 people converged on Queen Victoria Park to watch this concert. According to the Niagara Falls Review, Niagara Parks Commission chairwoman Janice Thompson said the crowd estimate comes from the Niagara Parks Police who observed people coming in and out of the area throughout the night.

Although the concert was a success by the large attendance it is quite apparent that the numbers estimated were skewed far in excess of those actual numbers in attendance. Quite often this is done for the purposes of the sponsors, the politicians, and others such as tourism operators with special interest in the success of this event. This type of pure speculation only serves to feed the media monster that this type of entertainment demands.

Crowd-size estimation is tough for people who want to do it right. But when turnout implies clout, then politicians and event organizers have plenty of motivation to exaggerate the head count. Through careful research, though, it is possible to make better crowd-size estimates that aren't the result of political bias.

The concert site is located in Queen Victoria Park at the base of Murray Hill opposite the American Falls. It is a large open area that allows concerts to be held each year and with a large crowd capacity. The area consists of approximately 103,525 square feet.






Although the task of determining how many people attend something as large as say, a political rally or a protest may seem like a daunting, almost impossible undertaking to do with any accuracy, with some basic information, it’s actually not that difficult to get reasonably accurate results.

The most well-known method of estimating the size of a given crowd is simply called “The Jacobs’ Method” as an ode to its inventor, Herbert Jacobs. Jacobs spent a few decades working for the Milwaukee Journal before retiring into teaching journalism at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1960s. He thought up his very simple crowd size estimate method after observing numerous Vietnam War protests outside of his office window.

Jacobs noticed that the area the students stood on had a repeating grid-like pattern, meaning he could very easily count how many students occupied a certain amount of space by counting how many students on average seemed to be able to stand inside a section of the grid. By doing this, he soon noticed some patterns.

For example, Jacobs found that in the most densely packed crowds, each person took up approximately 2.5 square feet. We should note that this is the absolute upper limit of a how dense a crowd can safely get, as in, you simply couldn’t fit more people into a crowd this dense without someone being trampled or worse, which is probably why most, including some scholarly articles on the subject we read, simply refer to it as “mosh-pit density”. In a dense, but more manageable crowd, Jacobs observed that participants had a comparably more roomy 4.5 square feet whilst those in a “light” crowd had a positively breezy 10 square feet to themselves.

In any event, once he had the approximate average number of students in each grid, he could then easily calculate the number of grids in an area occupied at a given density, and quite quickly come up with a very good estimate of how many people were in a given crowd. Thus, the now Gold Standard, and remarkably simple, “Jacobs’ Method” was born.

"Almost everyone who has tried to make a crowd estimate has a vested interest in what the outcome of the estimate is," Charles Seife says. Seife is a journalism professor at New York University who writes about math and physics.

Fifty years after Jacobs, the tools for counting crowds have improved but the principle is the same: area times density.

If given the doubt and using Jacob's "mosh-pit density" maximum calculation for the entire area including the area of the back stage, main stage, runways, tents, TV broadcast platforms and mini stages the park could hold a maximum of approximately 41,500 people jammed tightly together throughout the entire area.

No matter how it's configured - this wasn't the case on New Year's Eve. The crowd was indeed large but never came close to exceeding 40 thousand person capacity let alone 60,000 plus estimated by organizers.

Several aerial pictures taken during the height of the festival clearly shows that a large portion of the park didn't meet Jacob's 2.5 mosh-pit density. A large area was within Jacob's 4.5 criteria while the south-western portion was at best within Jacob's 10 feet criteria.





Using Jacob's 2.5 criteria not excluding the structures on site and including the overflow on Murray Hill and part of the Niagara Parkway the absolute maximum best guesstimate would be 40 thousand people in attendance.

There is absolutely no question that the New Years Eve party in Queen Victoria Park was a resounding success with arguably the best musical talent to date. There is no need to over state the attendance except to boaster the egos of the organizers, sponsors and politicians. Thirty to forty thousand people in attendance are a substantial number albeit a realistic guesstimate as opposed to some far-fetched estimated number as given to the media.

New Year's Eve - Niagara Falls is the premier event throughout Canada and beyond. The winning combination of stakeholders and sponsors will continue to guarantee the future success and growth of this event. Well done but absolutely no need skewing attendance numbers beyond what is realistic.

- Rick 15/01/07







February 13th 2010


Tourism Greed


For many years, tourism operators have said they have worked for the common good of promoting tourism in Niagara with one voice. They talk the talk but seldom walk the walk. Lip service is cheap and pats on the back are plentiful.

In times of economic difficulty, the industry is the first to point the finger of blame at anyone and everyone including each other or anything in order to deflect any responsibility. In the meantime, prices keep increasing while the quality of tourist services and value suffers.

It has gotten to the breaking point where people simply cannot afford to visit or stay for longer periods of time  because of exorbitant prices for meals, attractions and accommodations.

In Niagara, the tourist has become  nothing more than a "cash-cow" rather than a valued visitor. Quite often tourists leave Niagara Falls with negative feelings of being "ripped-off".

In truth, the tourism industry acts like a dysfunctional family, driven by greed and the cut-throat nature of their competition. Rather than working harmoniously for the common good of all tourists, the industry thrives itself on self-preservation at the expense of each other and especially every visitor to Niagara.

Some in the industry have forgotten two very simple facts. Firstly, visitors for the most part come to Niagara to see the mighty cataracts. The rest of the tourism industry is the financial beneficiary; a fact the industry often forgets.

Everyone in the tourism business seems to want to take credit for the successes of tourism in Niagara Falls.

Some have suggested the Festival of Lights has been the catalyst, while others would differ and suggest it is the marketing genius of the hotel owners or Niagara Falls tourism promotions while others would have you believe it is the result of the casinos' or city politicians. To some degree, all this is true.

While I agree, everyone involved in the tourism industry needs to take a well deserved bow for their respective contribution, let us not forget the most important anchor behind all Niagara Falls tourism.

The true success of Niagara Falls tourism is the waterfalls. Pure and simple. Without nature's gift of the majestic waterfalls and the gorge, there would be little or no tourism, no hotels, no casinos', no attractions nor any noteworthy festivals. Our twin cities wouldn't be known around the world as it is today as a world class destination.

Without the waterfalls the tourism house of cards would fall flat. There would be no money and very little new development.

The same cannot be said of the Falls. It is the diamond in the Niagara tourism tiara, for even without all the supporting development, money, casinos', hotels' and attractions - nature's Falls of Niagara will continue well into the future to be the center piece of all tourism along the Niagara Frontier.

Today, the industry of tourism has the tools and resources to make a tremendous impact and impression on every single visitor to Niagara Falls. The question is whether or not the tourism industry is prepared to put their own self interests behind those of our guests in order to make every visit an affordable and enjoyable event. 

Perhaps one day in the not too distant future, the industry will put side their greedy self interests and realize the collective benefits of working together in a unified tourism industry.

They might even create a positive and balanced climate where they can still make money and the visitor will be treated royally with an affordability that encourages them to return again and again. Then and only then will the true winner be the tourist and the tourism industry in Niagara Falls.

- Rick 10/02/13



















My Niagara Falls