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Cancellation of Children's Festival looms

There is both good news and bad news relative to this year’s 12th annual Canmore Children’s Festival.

There is both good news and bad news relative to this year’s 12th annual Canmore Children’s Festival.

On the one hand, the festival will, as always, provide youngsters with quality entertainment ranging from face painting to fan favourite Al Simmons to magic and international flavours.

On the other hand, the festival’s run may end at 12 if coordinators and volunteers don’t step forward to help out.

Originally a Town of Canmore event started by supervisor of arts and culture Chris Bartolomie, the festival no longer receives Town funding (as of 2010) and Canmore Children’s Festival Society organizers have downsized to keep things manageable.

For 2011, for example, all events have been moved indoors to the Canmore Collegiate High School Theatre for the May 21 events. As part of the festival, though, Imagination Days will see events take place in Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy, École Notre-Dame des Mont, as well as Exshaw School and Lawrence Grassi and Elizabeth Rummel Schools.

To continue past the 2011 edition of the festival, though, current chairperson Michelle Preston said coordinators (food and beverage, site coordination) are desperately needed.

“At one time, we had a large committee and we all shared the workload,” said Preston, who has been involved since day one. “But the committee has gotten smaller and the coordinators have each taken on more and more. If we don’t find more coordinators, there won’t be a Children’s Festival next year.”

The number of coordinators has dropped from about 20 in the early years of the festival to a half dozen. Coordinators work year-round on the festival, attending monthly committee meetings and talking about the behind-the-scenes details.

Volunteers (80 to 100 are needed), on the other hand, are needed to actually carry the event off at the time of staging.

Due to the lack of coordinators, Artistic Director Norine Hori said the festival has been scaled back this year to primarily mainstage acts which will be indoors at the high school – which allows for more concise planning and organizing.

And, rather than events taking place at almost any time throughout the festival, this year, morning, afternoon and evening presentations will be staged and tickets sold for each event.

“We need to find some people who want to come out and find out what happens with the festival, then maybe we can expand again next year,” said Preston. “The planning process needs to happen. We usually have lots of volunteers for the day of the event, and that’s great, but a lot of planning takes place ahead of time.”

The decision to cancel the festival, if necessary, “was a tough one to make,” said Hori, “but some people who have been doing a lot of work (including Preston) are stepping down after this year.

“We’ve had absolutely incredible support from businesses like Lafarge, but we need to do some succession planning, so we need to get some people on board now.”

While this year’s event is already planned, Preston and Hori said the best plan would be for coordinators to join now and get the feel for how a festival is organized, before taking over a position.

“To lose the festival would be a real shame,” said Preston. “It’s a great community event and we’ve had great support from the business community.

“This is probably my last year and I would like to pass on the torch. If anyone is interested, I’d be happy to show them the ropes.”

To volunteer for the annual festival, or for more on upcoming Children’s Festival performances, visit www.canmorechildrensfestival.com


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