Joie de vivre lacking here

“Joie de vivre alive and well in Winnipeg” splashed the headline in Saturday’s Free Press as city residents flocked to The Forks to kick off the 40th-annual Festival du Voyageur—billed as the largest winter festival in Western Canada.
Alas, it’s a sentiment Fort Frances is decidedly lacking these days.
True, it was a busy weekend on the sports scene here with the conclusion of the NOCA men’s provincial playdowns at the Fort Frances Curling Club, a pair of clashes between the Fort Frances Jr. Sabres and the first-place Fort William North Stars, two girls’ hockey tournaments, a squash tournament, and the Muskie boys’ hockey team hosting the Kenora Broncos at the Memorial Sports Centre, the eighth-annual Jim Oster Invitational boys’ basketball tournament at Robert Moore School, and the zone round of the “Four Steps to Stardom” youth bowling showdown over at Plaza Lanes.
But outside of a family skate and family swim, together with the launch of the new “Discover the History” backpack program at the Fort Frances Museum, very little was planned to coincide with the new Family Day holiday this past Monday. Emo and Rainy River, with much smaller populations than Fort Frances, both managed to stage special events with a family theme, yet we didn’t—or couldn’t—go beyond the bare minimum.
It’s not that Fort Frances residents don’t know how to have a good time. During its heyday in the mid-1990s, the Little Amik Winter Carnival, organized by the local Chamber of Commerce, hopped with activities like slo-pitch in the snow, boot hockey, arm-wrestling, tug-of-war, broomball, cross-country skiing, ice-fishing, jam-pail curling, and a snow sculpture contest, not to mention “Quest for the Best” and the Saturday night social.
But it eventually fell by the wayside after 1999, and efforts to resurrect a winter carnival in 2005 never got off the ground.
The biggest problem, of course, is getting someone to shoulder the organizational burden. The Chamber of Commerce certainly has its plate full with such things as the home and leisure show, “Quest for the Best” and “Kiddie Quest” (now held in conjunction with the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship each July), and its annual business awards gala in the fall.
The same holds true for the fewer and fewer service clubs here trying to keep up their fundraising ventures with fewer and fewer members.
But is it really a question of not having enough people to take on the job—or a general lack of community spirit? After all, despite our longstanding claim to be a “hockey-mad” town, we still can’t generate enough interest to even bother entering the annual CBC/Kraft “Hockeyville” contest.
Obviously, volunteers are key to the success of any community festival, summer or winter. But just as important, such an event can’t succeed without the support of residents—that so-called “joie de vivre” that gets people to turn out in droves and participate with their friends, neighbours, and fellow citizens.
We’ve somehow lost that over the years.
This slow malaise has long affected Fun in the Sun (we didn’t even have the regular queen pageant last year) and is now starting to impact the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship both in terms of attendance and volunteer help.
We, as a community, have to shake it or there won’t be any new events here, let alone the current ones.