Festival may not run this year

The arts community may lose its biggest showcase with organizers warning the annual Rainy River District Festival of the Performing Arts may not go ahead this year.
“There is a serious chance the festival won’t go next year if we don’t get more help,” stressed John Jankiewicz, president of the Rainy River District Music Festival Association.
Jankiewicz said the problem is that the same handful of people have been organizing the festival for years—and no new volunteers are coming forward.
“We’re burnt out,” he remarked.
“Basically all the work of the festival is in the hands of four or five people,” agreed fellow association member Stephanie Hawkins. “The festival has continued to expand but the number of people running it has decreased.
“We’re at a crisis point,” she added. “If we don’t get more people to run it, we won’t be able to do it.”
The association is meeting this Monday (Oct. 21) at 7 p.m. at the Fort Frances Public Library and members are urging people to come out and volunteer some time to keep the festival going.
Hawkins said it wouldn’t require much work to stage the annual event if more people were involved. The group is looking for people with organizational skills, volunteers to type information, and assist with fundraising and public relations.
“If there were a lot of people, it wouldn’t be that much work,” she said.
Organizers also are grappling with funding issues. Part of the reason for this is the recent expansion the festival has undertaken.
Last year, about 1,000 people participated in the two-week event. Participation in the piano and dance categories has increased dramatically recently, also causing costs to rise.
“If the festival continues to grow next year, it will run a deficit,” said Jankiewicz. “The money is just not there.
“We need more innovative ways of raising funds, and need people to sit down to do it and not to tell us how at the meeting,” he added.
Some music teachers also have asked that the festival be postponed from April until the end of May to coincide with music exams, but Jankiewicz said organizers can’t accommodate that request since they are unable to contribute the amount of time necessary later in the season.
Both Hawkins and Jankiewicz said they hoped people would attend Monday’s meeting to help support the festival and that they would be able to host it again in 2003.
“I think that it would be really bad if it didn’t go,” Hawkins said. “For a lot of kids, this is their big focus for the year. This is what they work towards all year.
“The absence would really be felt in the district if it wasn’t held this year.”

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