Winter Festival seeks long-term volunteers

Eric Bell
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Winter festival co-ordinator Darrell Prokopie stands at the site of the 2014 Winter Festival. This is the 50th year for the festival and will be held in conjunction with the Saskatchewan Winter Games

It’s the oldest and largest winter festival in Western Canada, and in order for it to continue, the organizers need your help.

This year marks the 50th year of the Prince Albert Winter Festival.

Originally founded to “break up the winter doldrums” often experienced during the winter months, Festival co-ordinator Darrell Prokopie says the event has expanded considerably over the years.

“Ultimately the start of the winter festival came to be with events and activities that had their roots in this area,like the dog races, which was a way of life around here,” Prokopie said. “So basically it started as a showcase of activities that were near and dear to the region.”

Over the years, the festival grew to feature more events.

 “It has expanded from not only having the outdoor sites, but musical entertainment and activities for kids,” Prokopie said. “It’s very family oriented, and just breaks up the month of February with a week of activities.”

While the start date isn’t set in stone, the event is likely to take place from Feb. 10 to 23, 2014. 

The festival may only be a week long, but for Prokopie and the rest of the board, planning is a year-round activity.

“We take some time off in the summer, but the phone calls keep coming,” Prokopie said. “We are always looking for funding and talking to people who could potentially come out for events. But we really get rolling the end of November and go straight through until February.”

Finding enough volunteers for such a large event has always been a struggle.  Prokopie says they are looking for people who may be interested in taking on a bigger role in terms of organizing the festival.

“Volunteers are an ongoing concern,” Prokopie said. “Not just volunteers that will just stand at a gate and take a ticket for a day, but volunteers that are willing to come from November on and help with the actual organization. Right now we’re looking to really have people step up. If they don’t want to join the board, maybe they can become chairman or coordinator of an event. That would certainly be beneficial to us.”

The Winter Festival board meets at the Margo Fournier Centre every Tuesday and Thursday night. Prokopie says anyone interested in becoming involved can come to a meeting and be put to work right away. More information can be sought by phoning Darrell at 306-961-1946 or emailing info@pawinterfestival.com

“We’re looking for people who see that the festival is important to the community and important to the region” Prokopie said. “Those are the type of people we would like to have at our meetings.”

Finances are always a concern for the festival as well, and while the event’s finances are in good order, Prokopie acknowledges that it’s tough to come up with the $90,000 it costs to run the event.

“At the beginning you kind of wonder, ifwe going to be able to pull it off,” Prokopie said. “Money is tight, and we look for people and corporate sponsors to fund the event. We’re just trying to get a small piece of an ever shrinking pie to maintain the festival.”

Volunteer and financial concerns aside, Prokopie says that this year’s Winter Festival is going to be big.

“This year were going to have thousands more people in the city during the event due to the Saskatchewan Winter Games, they will fall at the same time,” Prokopie said. “We’re trying to create things that will give our out of town guests the opportunity to come out and be entertained.”

The Winter Festival organizers are also planning to use the 50th anniversary to honour and recognize all of those who have made the festival become such a success over the years.

“We are planning to use the 50th winter fest to really showcase Prince Albert and show our guests what we are all about,” Prokopie said.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Margo Fournier Centre

Geographic location: Western Canada, Saskatchewan

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