Arts festival in jeopardy

Harrison Festival Society makes public plea for support in gaming review process

The Harrison Festival Society issued a public plea for support this week, in the hopes that the Community Gaming Grants Review will result in a reinstatement of government funding.

If the review doesn’t pan out in favour of the long-running society, they say they will have to fold the Harrison Festival of the Arts.

The festival’s director, Phyllis Stenson, posted a letter to supporters on the society’s website (www.harrisonfestival.com) explaining their financial situation, the current state of gaming, and how people can help keep the festival alive.

As gaming grants currently stand, the Festival of the Arts is no longer eligible for money it is used to receiving — $80,500 per year under the current three agreement. That agreement runs out next March, and Stenson told the Observer there is only enough money in their accounts to run the festival for one more year.

“We are basically being cut off at the knees,” she said. “To do an event that’s similar to what we’ve done in the past, we’ll have to spend our surplus.”

And if the festival tries to cut back on costs by making it a smaller event, it would start a “domino effect.”

One of the first things that could be trimmed from the festival budget would be the live music that’s offered each year. While patrons are urged to buy a $2 Festival button to support the beach entertainment, it’s not strictly enforced.

“We can’t put a fence up and start charging admission,” Stenson said, as it would vastly change the atmosphere of the event, which just celebrated its 33rd year.

Once access was limited to the event, attendance would drop, she said.

The other option would be to cut down the length of the 10-day event. But changing to a weekend format could make them ineligible from other sources of funding.

It’s a dire situation, and one that Stenson has been worried about for the past several years.

Back in 2009, the province changed the criteria for gaming grants, making it more and more difficult for certain groups, including arts organizations, to receive funding.

It’s been a bumpy few years since then, but Stenson is hopeful that the review process will work.

“I’m optimistic that it’s an arm’s length process,” she said. “I think there will be changes and I’m hoping the government will listen to the recommendations (made by the review).

“I guess when you’re faced with priorities it’s difficult, but the arts are part of the community and it’s who we are.”

The Community Gaming Grants Review is being chaired by Skip Triplett. On Monday, he chaired one of many public forum being held throughout August and September. Monday’s forum was in Abbotsford, and Stenson spoke there publicly about the festival’s plight.

Triplett told the Observer this week that their story is not unique.

“Other groups’ situations are not necessarily as severe as having to fold as soon as they (Harrison Festival Society) have to,” he said. “But we are hearing a fair amount about fairs and festivals.”

His role as chair is an arbitrary one, and his task is to hear everyone’s concerns and present options to Christy Clark’s Liberal government.

Many of the arts groups communicating with Triplett are saying they want the gaming grants restored to the 2009 levels.

It’s not just a matter of keeping the arts alive. Festivals, especially large ones such as Harrison’s, draw in huge amounts of tourism dollars.

Stenson said a recent study found that the Harrison Festival of the Arts contribute $1.3 million to the economy. They also employ three full-time staff, ten part-time staff and provide a volunteering outlet for more than 200 volunteers.

It’s that kind of impact that Triplett hopes to hear more about.

“I don’t want to take a chance that that message isn’t heard,” he said.

He has already heard from hundreds, if not thousands, of people who are affected by the loss of community groups. And he told the Observer he wants to present enough information that changes will be made.

“What I need help with is showing the larger general benefit,” he said. When small communities like Harrison Hot Springs have successful events that drive volunteerism, the larger results are things like better community pride and less vandalism, he said.

“I’m making the case as strongly as I can.”

The last day for submissions is September 16. Triplett is keeping a blog and is hoping to get more people communicating in an open forum online. For more information on how to submit opinions to Triplett, and in turn the provincial government, visit www.communitygaminggrantreview.gov.bc.ca.

Just Posted

Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months. (RCMP photo)
Chilliwack RCMP looking for missing 20-year-old woman

Police say Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months

(Maps.Chilliwack.com)
RCMP seek dash-cam footage after Chilliwack road rage incident

Male driving a black pickup stopped and allegedly threatened to punch another driver

Deepak Sharma of Abbotsford has been convicted of the sexual assault of one of his cab passengers in West Vancouver in January 2019.
Former Abbotsford Hindu temple president convicted of sexual assault

Deepak Sharma assaulted a female passenger when he was a cab driver

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Agassiz toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Woody’s RV World hosts a grand opening for its brand-new Abbotsford location on Saturday. (YouTube)
Woody’s RV World hosts Abbotsford grand opening on Saturday

First-ever B.C. location for successful RV chain, located on Marshall Road

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Most Read