A little over half a year has passed since the first annual Wetaskiwin Winter Warm-Up and already the 2017 festival is well in the works.
Following a presentation at city council’s June 26 meeting, council approved giving the Wetaskiwin Community Engagement Committee (CEC) a budget of $30,000, $1,500 in-kind, and the use of the Wetaskiwin Memorial Centre.
The budget CEC representatives presented to council totaled $41,482, higher than the 2016 budget, as the committee would like to include new additions to the festival.
“Last year our goal was to have something affordable for families,” said CEC representative Amanda Rule.
“We’re definitely taking that forward this year, having something available for everyone,” said CEC representative Pamela Ganske.
One new addition to the festival for this year is the partnering with the Manluk Centre Festival of Trees.
Rule says there was a request to partner with the Winter Warm-Up Festival last year but a small budget and restrictive timeline caused challenges.
Another addition for 2017 is the inclusion is the Wetaskiwin Health Foundation’s Annual Barn Dance.
Last year the CEC proposed a Midnight Madness event to take place during the festival. However, Ganske says the idea was not well received by businesses. This year an inaugural Stay Local evening is being planned for community businesses.
Ganske says once the idea was brought to the Wetaskiwin Regional Chamber of Commerce the organization was excited about it.
Santa’s reindeer will also be visiting the festival this year during the light up at city hall. “That’s something we’re really excited about,” said Ganske.
This year the Winter Warm-Up activities will include face painting, a penguin visit at NorQuest College and a second horse sleigh.
Rule and Ganske also proposed multiple enhancement options for council to consider.
Two Christmas light silhouette trees for city hall, costing $6,000; three ice sculpture package options with costs of $5,000, $7,500 or $9,000; and a full Wilbert Moose live mascot, $6,500.
Councillors questioned why the event’s marketing budget is so high. Rule explained it increased as CEC had not had meetings with some of the event’s key partners by the time of the presentation to council. She added the committee wanted to ensure there was a contingency fund in the budget.
Council was also informed CEC is not planning on applying for grants this year, nor will it work closely with the city’s tourism and marketing department; it plans to remain a separate entity.
Coun. Joe Branco questioned why, if it is a local event, and not working with the city’s tourism and marketing department, such a large marketing budget is needed.
He said Christmas events should be about the children. Reindeer and pictures with Santa are good components, but he does not see how additional ice sculpture adds to that ideal. “I think we need to have a priority.”
Coun. Patricia MacQuarrie said she likes the lights at city hall but feels this is not the year to add the trees for $6,000. “This is a really big budget.”
Coun. Wayne Neilson stated he feels ice sculptures are geared toward youth and play. “Could I live without lights for a year? Sure.”
Coun. June Boyda said she feels CEC should take advantage of working with the city’s tourism and marketing department.
Branco questioned what would happen if the event went over budget due to unforeseen circumstances.
“They’d be very wise to set up a contingency fund with that $30,000,” he added.