by Tristan Turner
Morinville Festival Society Chair Paul Smith gave a grant request presentation to Town Council at their regular meeting Feb. 11. The non-for-profit society hosts the annual St. Jean Baptiste Festival as well as the Farmers Market, among other events. The Society is requesting a $50,000 grant to cover costs of the 2014 St. Jean Baptiste Festival and a $18,386 budget shortfall from last year’s event. Paul Smith cited the Classic Rock Concerts as the cause of the society’s first-ever deficit and, as a result, they will not be held in the future.
The presentation included a video followed by a brief speech that highlighted many of the events held by the Festival Society, and informed council on the expenses the organization expects to incur next year. According to Smith, the average cost per participant for each event is $5.77 and creates “immense” economic spinoff for local businesses.
Smith spoke about the need to take greater measures to ensure the safety of residents attending the St. Jean Baptiste Festival. “We need to increase spending in some areas because we have much larger crowds and we need to become a more professionally run festival. So, for example, we do need professional security…and we need a person on site trained in first aid,” he explained.
Smith reminded Council that the Town has financially supported the Morinville Festival Society with a $35,000 grant in the past, and said he hoped that Council would repeat its financial support for the community group.
Following the presentation, Councillor Stephen Dafoe asked “In 2011, you stood before the council of the day and said that your goal as fairly new festival chair was to create a festival that would be self-sustaining and would require no tax dollars. You anticipated that would occur within one to three years. That was 2011. 2014 is three years later. How’s that working for you?”
Smith responded to the question by saying that he has been able to create two “self sustaining modules: the Farmer’s Market and the October Festival.” He added “nothing would bring me greater pleasure than to ask for less next year, and to make St. Jean Baptiste a self-sustaining model.”
While Council did not make a decision regarding 2014 funding for the Morinville Festival Society, the request will be taken into consideration as Council approaches budget deliberations. Smith’s presentation comes after similar community grant requests totaling over $27,000 that were presented at the Jan. 28 council meeting by the Morinville Historical and Cultural Society, the Morinville Food Bank and the Morinville Minstrels.