By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – If Paul Smith has his way Morinville could develop a solid reputation as the go-to place for community festivals. Smith, who was festival chair of last year’s St. Jean Baptiste Festival, told Morinville Town Council his festival society has plans for another two festivals to bookend the annual summer event. But he wants $100,000 of next year’s budget money to make it happen.
Smith told Council the recently formed Morinville Festival Society would be the umbrella organizer for a series of festivals, including the annual summer festival, which received $30,000 from the Town in 2011. Smith is looking for that money and more to deliver the St. Jean Baptiste Festival as well as a January and September festival of similar scale.
“The Morinville Festival Society is asking for $100,000 because we want to continue to provide the St. Jean Baptiste Festival and add two more festivals to grow to the same size,” Smith said. “Above that, we want to have an all year long committee, called the Celebrations Committee that takes existing events and adds a little bit to them.”
One of the areas of adding something to the mix will be through next year’s Farmers’ Market. Smith said the committee wants to create a platform for Morinville that can create a sense of tourism in the community and will be doing so by bringing a little entertainment and additional excitement to compliment the produce and product vendors at the weekly market. That was accomplished twice this year through a successful Street Performers event and the annual Battle of the Chilies competition. The goal is to double the size of the market through the addition of a regular entertainment component.
While the committee will augment existing events in town, the St. Jean Baptiste Festival will continue to be the flagship of the initiative. Smith said last year’s event was valued at $150,000 but was produced for just $45,0000.
“The festival has grown every year and everyone has said, ‘How are you going to grow it?’ The most logical thing is to not make it bigger and cost a lot more to do it once a year, but do four festivals that we can capitalize on what we already have for relatively little dollars,” he explained.
Smith and his group believe multiple festivals are the way to put Morinville on the tourism maps as opposed to giant monuments to kitsch popular in other cmmunities. “It’s far beyond what any small town does,” Smith said of the multi-festival concept. This is not the typical tourism. There are lots of emblems on a stick at the beginning of every town – pirogues and eggs and all of those things. It’s cool, but this is a step beyond that.”
Businesses to invest
Smith is not looking for all the money from the ratepayer. Of the $160,000 budget for the three festivals, half would come from the Town of Morinville, the other half from local businesses. Smith has already secured a five-year commitment of $20,000 per year from Champion Petfoods to be a top line sponsor of the events. Additional in-kind contributions have been received to pay for the majority of print and online advertising for the events. He is hoping the Town will find $80,000 in the budget to fund half the costs, plus an additional $20,000 for liability coverage for the events.
He is confident that with the $160,000 investment the Morinville Festival Society can bring the quality of St. Jean Baptiste Festival two more times each year. Additional grant monies would only make the events bigger.
“When grants come through we use that to enhance the festival and we add shows; we add family components,” he said. “When there is grant money we have those. When there is no grant money we don’t have those but we still have a festival.”
The Morinville Festival Society is already in the early planning stages for a January festival, themed around street hockey.