By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – After several soft openings, including the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours event, the Town of Morinville’s Volunteer Appreciation Night and the Art of Conversation’s Canyon Rose Outfit concert, the Morinville Community Cultural Centre had its official opening over the weekend. A forma gala evening took place Saturday night with a formal dinner, presentations and entertainment. Sunday afternoon saw the official ribbon cutting ceremony and the doors swung wide open to the community at large.
Saturday night’s gala was attended by representatives from Alexander First Nation. Tony Arcand performed a smudging ceremony to purify the centre on its opening. Alexander also provided some of the evening’s entertainment with the Kipohtakaw Singers.
A highlight of the evening was the presentation of the facility’s grand piano, a musical centrepiece that was donated to the cultural centre by the Morinville Rotary Club, who are also sponsoring one of the facility’s meeting rooms.
In keeping with the Community Cultural Centre’s slogan “It’s ours,” seven-year-old Leah Mrochuk, a first year piano student, was given the honour of being the first to play the high-end piano. Her rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star was given the same enthusiastic response as the piano’s next performer – Jeremy Spurgeon of Pro Coro Canada.
That variety of use was displayed Sunday during the public opening when hundreds of Morinvillians got to see the facility for the first time. The afternoon’s entertainment included face painting and a stilt walker for the children, art and photography, and plenty of local and regional entertainment. Performances included the Edmonton Pipe Band, Morinville Minstrels, Darrin Hagen, Caviar Players, Dance Connection and the Francophone band Allez Ouest.
But beyond the entertainment, speeches and ribbon cutting, residents had the opportunity to tour the 26,000 square foot facility originally anticipated to cost $12 million, but which was built for $11.2 million, much of that funded through matching grant money from the federal and provincial government.
During Sunday’s grand opening community party, Mayor Lloyd Bertschi said the Community Cultural Centre was a project six years in the making, one that began when the convent property was sold, leaving many of Morinville’s community groups without a place to meet. Bertschi said the town’s parks and recreation master plan identified the need for a new community centre. From there the town hired an architect.
“We started designing this facility and getting the input from the community as to what we wanted, and then when the economic downturn happened … the federal government introduced a stimulus package,” Bertschi said, adding Morinville was at that time about a year away from being ready to move forward. “But we had advanced far enough that we had applied for the funds. Our MP, Mr. Brian Storseth, was able to procure funding for the Town of Morinville in the amount of $3 million. Our MLA Ken Kowalski matched that with another $3 million.”
Criteria for the funding required the facility to be substantially completed by March of 2011. The facility was built by PCL who used a design build process whereby the facility was built while it was being designed. “It takes a great deal of confidence, let me tell you, in your politicians, in your management and in the people that you hire because the budget that you establish can go out of whack in a heartbeat,” the mayor said, adding his thanks to PCL Construction and the project architect Manasc Isaac. “We did come in $800,000 under budget.”
The mayor said the reduced cost allow the facility to have a few more trappings, including drapery and lighting for the stage and a projector system in the main concert hall.
“This is a wonderful facility, a great addition for our community,” he said. “I firmly believe that a strong arts community is strong and fundamental to a well-balanced and long-term sustainable community, which we are making sure Morinville is.”
The Community Cultural Centre will play a strong role in next week’s St. Jean Baptiste when it is the venue for five concerts running Tuesday through Saturday. Late August will see a live wrestling show brought to the Centre. Beginning in September, the facility will host nine performances in the Morinville Community cultural Centre’s 2011 / 2012 concert line up. Those concerts will include Lizzy hoyt, al Simmons, the Polyjesters, Gord Bamford, TorQ, Chuck & Albert, Ballet Kelowna, Pro Coro Canada and the Alberta Opera.
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