A child rolls along in her bumper ball at the Salmon Arm Canada Day Children’s Festival on July 1, 2018. (File photo)

Popular B.C. Children’s Festival could face demise

Help needed as small group of organizers in Shuswap running out of energy, funds

The annual Canada Day Children’s Day Festival in Salmon Arm is a large event, one requiring large amounts of work for organizers.

That work is taking its toll.

Karen Bubola, Kari Wilkinson and Darcy Calkins, three of the seven members of the Salmon Arm Children’s Festival Society, came to city council April 8 to ask for help and ideas.

Bubola outlined the history of the popular event, noting it is free but is getting harder to maintain.

“Over the years it has grown immensely. On average five or 6,000 people come. It is a very well-attended free family event.”

She said the average budget is $26,000 for the day, which includes toilet rentals, tables, insurance, a sound system and more. The funds are raised mainly through grant applications and support from community partners.

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She said the society pays a summer student for one month prior who helps organize the volunteers.

“We have tried over the years hitting up new groups – we struggle to get that long-term commitment. Will the free event be self sustainable? Probably no.”

She said games at the children’s festival are 50 cents each and the admission, entertainment and balloon animals are free.

“We want to keep it that way.”

Bubola notes that some families can’t afford to go to the fall fair.

“If they can get in the gate, they can’t afford the expensive games and rides.”

She asked if the city has ever considered hiring an event planner to help with events such as theirs. Bubola pointed out that the biggest difference for the festival is that none of the organizers are paid to do what they do.

“We’re all full-time working people,” she said, adding the pay for their work last year was a noodle box and a beverage.

The festival has asked the cadets group to help out in exchange for a donation of $1,000, she said, and they seem excited about that.

“We hope it will be a partnership going forward.”

Read more: Celebrate Canada Day throughout the Shuswap

Read more: Salmon Arm Elks keep giving generously

Bubola told council that each year the festival pays $624 for using the fairgrounds for one day. This year, the recreation society has asked for close to $1,200 for two days because of set-up and take-down time.

She asked the city if it could reduce the charge, as well as contributing $10,000 to the event.

“I would hate this to be our last year if we don’t get the support from groups or commitments from others.”

Mayor and council expressed their support and appreciation for the festival and its organizers.

Coun. Kevin Flynn said he’d like to investigate why the rent doubled when the festival has been there for 10 years. Council decided to put the festival on its next agenda for future discussion.

Council also suggested the festival society put its budget request in writing to the city, as well as applying to the Shuswap Community Foundation, which gives out grant money on behalf of the city.


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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