‘Highlights Concert’ closes out 79th Festival

Ken Kellar

With another talent-packed evening, the 2019 Rainy River District Festival of the Performing Arts came to its end.
The annual “Highlights Concert” ran last Tuesday (April 30), giving arts-lovers in the district one last chance to watch some of this year’s talented performers display their passion on stage.
Festival organizer Cynthia Donald said that while the schedule for this year’s event may have been a little different, it worked in favour of the greater whole.
“We usually cram the Festival in a couple of weeks, and this year we had to sort of space it out,” Donald said.
“So with our volunteers it was a little easier, because we have wonderful people like Ruth Caldwell, who donates her time, and for her to donate every day for two weeks it was hard.”
Donald also said that even though putting the festival together year after year is a lot of work, she feels that the experience the committee has makes each year feel better than the last.
“I think every year it’s smoother and smoother,” she said.
“Some of the people that we’ve had on the committee have had the same job for a while, so you start perfecting it.”
Donald also credited the use of social media to help spread awareness of the Festival, as parents and friends shared photos and videos of the performances throughout the month.
Dozens of awards were handed out over the course of the night, rewarding the hard work and dedication the performers put in across the different disciplines.
Though only two of the Festival’s most distinguished awards, the Rose Bowls, were given this year, both went to seasoned performers who were no strangers to that recognition.
Katelyn Bruyere and Brianna Eldridge were the winners of the Piano and Vocal Rose Bowls, respectively, and both have won at least one Rose Bowl at past Festivals.
“In my Grade 9 year I won the instrumental Rose Bowl for Violin,” Bruyere said.
“In my Grade 10 year I won the Vocal Rose Bowl.”
For her part, Eldridge won the Piano Rose Bowl when she was in Grade 9.
Donald said it was bittersweet to see Bruyere and Eldridge win the Rose Bowls at this year’s “Highlights Concert.”
“It was a little tearful to see Katelyn and Brianna on the stage for basically the last time for Festival,” Donald said.
“I think they’ve competed against each other through the years, and they put up with my mispronunciation of latin songs that they sing.”
Bruyere echoed that sentiment.
“We’ve both been in Festival together in different categories for so long, we kind of grew up together,” she said.
“Part of our childhood was going and practicing and then performing in Festival. It’s happy, because we both won together.”
Donald wanted to thank everyone involved with the Festival for making it another successful year.
“Somebody put a Cheers in for me last week, but I thought ‘nonono,'” she said.
“It runs smoothly because all of these people are working behind the scenes. Some are parents and they have a good insight into what people need, because they’ve participated in it for a few years.”
Donald also said that once the committee reconvenes after the summer, the work will start on the next festival, which will be a major milestone.
“We’re getting all excited about our 80th year,” Donald shared.
“We’re hopefully going to bring in a few new things to celebrate the history of the Festival, so it should be a good year.”
And while both of the Rose Bowl winners this year will be heading off on the next phase of their lives, there’s at least one thing their futures will have in common.
“I’m going to school for esthetics, so I’m going to get my certificate in a trade so I can make money while I’m going to school for Musical Theatre in 2020,” Eldridge said.
Bruyere said she hadn’t decided one hundred percent what she would be studying when she goes off for post-secondary, but is leaning towards pursuing a Bachelor of Science.
“I can get maybe a major in biochemistry and then work on a minor in music,” she said.
“Music is in the near future,” Eldridge agreed.