Festival opens registration for 2020

Megan Walchuk

It’s time to pick your favourite poem, prose or piece of music and practice, practice, practice.
The Rainy River District Festival of the Performing Arts has officially opened registration for the 2020 season.
The Festival began in 1940, with a group of local citizens, who felt there was too much talent going unseen. They gathered up local piano and music teachers, and assembled the region’s most talented performers for a spring festival. Now 80 years later, their idea has become one of the region’s most beloved traditions.
Back then, the Festival attracted 800 performers, who were all adjudicated over the period of a week.
“I can’t even imagine how they did that,” said current Festival organizer, Synthia Donald.
Modern Festivals attract a much more modest, but no less talented 200-300, which are spread over the month of April, she noted.
“We try to run it like a workshop,” said Donald. “The adjudicators don’t just judge. They offer advice and suggestions.”
It’s an ideal event for budding performers looking for an expert opinion on their talent, or even just practice with public speaking in a supportive environment.
“It can be scary. I was scared when I first did it,” said Donald. “But what I love is watching these people come back year after year, and be so supportive of each other. They congratulate each other and support each other. It’s so nice to watch.”
The Festival is open to anyone, age 4 and up, who’s interested in showcasing their performing talent, from instrumental or vocal music, to dramatic arts. New categories are added regularly. Last year, French Drama and Speech Arts made their debut. This year, Drama and Speech Arts in Anishinaabemowin has been added. Organizers are open to changes going forward, to keep the roster fresh and current. Even a rap category is being considered for the future. “We’re really open to anything,” said Donald.
This year, participants can purchase a program as a memento, complete with a list of performers and event sponsors.
Each year brings new challenges for event organizers. This year, they’re navigating work-to-rule by the province’s teachers.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to look this year, with the teachers [on strike],” said Donald.
Under current labour conditions, teachers are unable to organize any field trips or events outside of school. With school groups traditionally making up a hefty percentage of participants, the strike could eat into the Festival’s participation numbers. Bringing more adjudicators onto school grounds for performances could be one solution, noted Donald. “We’re going to do the best we can.”
Interested participants can print the entry forms and syllabus and resource manual from the Festival’s website at ff-festival.com. They can be dropped off at the Safeway pharmacy.