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Tough decisions ahead for festival budget



A mainstream celebrity, who commands more than a quarter of a million dollars per appearance, is waiting in the wings for approval of municipal funding to appear during WinterPRiDE ski week.

Dean Nelson, CEO and executive producer of Alpenglow Productions, which puts on the annual gay ski week in Whistler, is keeping mum on the act, tentatively on hold, while he awaits word from the municipality's Festivals, Events and Animation program — a program that has more applicants scrambling for a piece of the FE&A pie than ever before, with a festival season stretching longer than ever and three new big-name investments in 2013 — Tough Mudder in June, Ironman in August and the Fall Festival in September.

How the money — more than $2.6 million — gets divvied up next year remains to be seen. But the difficult decisions ahead are perhaps a sign of good things to come on the 2013 Whistler event calendar.

"To be quite honest with you, I hope it is really tough," said Sue Adams, who sits on the FE&A Oversight Committee. "I think the more varied and the more people that are putting proposals forward, I think that's a good thing. That's just Sue Adams' point of view, I'm not speaking for the committee."

It is the first time Nelson has applied for FE&A funding for his festival, which has become a mainstay in the Whistler's winter calendar.

"For us to bring in this type of artist, we at the festival would have never considered it in the past just because the tickets would be at such a price that it would be cost prohibitive," he explained.

But with augmentation funding, courtesy of FE&A, the impossible becomes possible.

Roughly 12 event producers like Nelson have submitted requests by deadline last week for "augmentation" funding — or money to fatten up existing festivals primarily with a goal of driving more room nights to the resorts — from the FE&A budget. Last year that augmentation budget was roughly $500,000, approximately one-fifth of the overall $2.6 million FE&A budget, which also funds original programming and resort animation.

Event producers responded to an email request from the municipality at the end of October.

"The FE&A program reached out to approximately 12 festivals/events regarding potential investment opportunities that would help the FE&A program reach its goals," stated the RMOW communications department in an email. "FE&A has received replies from all the events contacted."

Nelson, for example, presented a "shopping list" of options to the FE&A Working Group between $30,000 and $100,000. "Our proposal was geared for mid-week exposure to encourage people to come up earlier in the week to be able to hang out with the star and see the performance and get really excited about it," he said.

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