Future of big tent may fold

Ken Johnston

There were some big top questions on Saturday about the future of the district’s giant events tent.
Purchased more than a decade ago by the Rainy River Future Development Corp. and recently refurbished at a cost of $70,000, the future of the tent now is in limbo.
RRFDC chair George Emes told delegates attending the 20th-annual Rainy River District Municipal Association general meeting in Stratton that usage has dropped off, leaving revenues nominal at best.
The RRFDC took out a loan to buy the tent, and over the years communities rented it and hosted community festivals such as homecomings and fishing derbies.
But renters have fallen off of late, with only Rainy River and Morson using it last year for the Rainy River Walleye Tournament and the Morson Bass International tournament, respectively.
Emes said the RRFDC wants input from the district.
“Do you still want the tent to be available?” he asked. “If so, tell us you are going to use it!”
Angela Halverson of the RRFDC said the board is looking at the possibility of waiving the rental cost in hopes they could make a case to FedNor that the tent is an essential part of economic development in the district.
Emes said communities still would have to pay to have it put up and taken down. But that part of the tent usage is, in itself, part of the reason many communities are shying away from it.
Finding bodies to help set up and dismantle the tent is a struggle to say the least.
But Emes said they are hopeful that waiving the rent for the tent might inspire groups to utilize it and rally to the needs to put it up and take it down.
“If not, we will have to look at selling it,” he warned.
Both Rainy River and Morson depend heavily on the tent to make their fishing tournaments a success. Rainy River, however, could follow Emo and Fort Frances’ footsteps and move their weigh-ins and other parts of the event to the local arena.
Rainy River has invested significantly in infrastructure to accommodate the tent. It had a heavy-duty electrical service, an asphalt pad, and a sewer hook-up for washrooms installed at Hannam Park.
Emes did not give a deadline as to when the RRFDC would like commitments for tent usage, but noted some communities were confused.
“Some thought we were seeking donations,” he noted. “On the contrary, we are looking for users, not donations.”