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'Angel investors' fund 2013 events

Municipal staff present details of FE&A funding for this year



The municipality's $2.8 million festivals, events and animation program rolled out this week to mixed reaction from event organizers, ranging from grateful disbelief to surprised disappointment.

Stella Harvey, founder of the Whistler Reader and Writers Festival was ecstatic when she learned of the $30,000 in funding for her small festival, heading into its 12th year.

"I'm still speechless about it," she said Tuesday night in the wake of the presentation to council.

"I'm so grateful for this opportunity because it's been so long that we've been putting on this festival."

Always on a shoestring budget, this is the first major cash injection of funds for the writers fest with an idea of bringing a big name to town to shine a spotlight on the event.

At the other end of the spectrum Dave Clark, founder of the Whistler Half Marathon, couldn't help but express his disappointment upon learning his event would not get $25,000 to enhance the race event. The idea was to use the money to fund live music on the Saturday night after the race, which is held in the morning with a goal of boosting room nights throughout the weekend.

"It would have been a fantastic opportunity to showcase the event," said Clark, who said the half marathon is self-sufficient and will go ahead as planned, just without the augmentation funding.

He hopes to meet with municipal staff to understand the rationale behind the decisions.

Those decisions were outlined Tuesday night. By far, augmentation funding, or funding of third party proposals to enhance their events, has the biggest slice of the $2.8 million budget at $922,000, up from $475,000 last year. There was more than $1.7 million in proposals.

Nine festivals were ultimately successful — Ironman ($250,000), World Ski and Snowboard Festival ($135,000), Tough Mudder ($112,000), Crankworx ($80,000), Whistler Film Festival ($90,000), Wanderlust ($90,000), GranFondo ($75,000), Cornucopia ($75,000) and the Children's Art Festival ($45,000).

"It's much appreciated," said Sue Eckersley, producer of WSSF. The WSSF money will be used to enhance the free village concert series that has become a hallmark of the event.

And while it's much less than her original request, Eckersley said the funding was "great."

It's also great news for the Tough Mudder race event held for the first time in June last year. It did not have any FE&A funding in its inaugural year.

Officials had been looking at the August 10-11 weekend in 2013 for its return to Whistler — a typically busy summer weekend as opposed to the June dates which saw a huge spike in room nights and resort activity at the end of the shoulder season.

When asked if the $112,000 in augmentation funding was used to entice Tough Mudder officials to bring back the event in June, FE&A reps said they could not confirm that. The money is specifically for a concert on the Friday night, they added.

"It's to stretch the stay," said Councillor Roger McCarthy, the council FE&A rep. "Create reason for people to come the day earlier or stay a day longer. You see that in the strategies of how this money is invested — can we get them to stay overnight?"

Just as the augmentation budget was almost doubled this year, the test and development budget was also beefed up from $55,000 last year to $84,000.

Three events will benefit. They are: Spirit Within First Nations Festival ($35,000), Readers and Writers ($30,000) and the Longboard Festival ($19,000).

It was suggested to Sue Adams, who is the member at large on the FE&A Oversight Committee, that in a way they could view themselves as "angel investors," providing capital for event start ups, or even those events that have been around for a while and need a helping hand.

"We've spent a lot of time talking about the cultural tourism strategy as well, so I think we're really starting to see the melding now of our natural beauty and sporting activities with our cultural elements," added Adams. "I've been a supporter of that for years. I'm just excited to see it all coming together."

Original programming is also a large portion of the $2.8 million budget, totalling $730,000 for things like Canada Day events, the Holiday Experience over Christmas and the free summer concert series. The details on that concert series, namely the acts, have not been determined.

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, however, is returning with expanded programming from two nights to three, as well as six ensembles mid-week.

This month the municipality will also develop a Request for Proposals for asset valuation, the first step in exploring sponsorship opportunities in future years.

"Sponsorship is a hugely important part of us moving forward," said John Rae, RMOW manager of strategic alliances.

"We're confident that there will be opportunities to generate revenue that will help us in 2014 because we are going to impress a number of potential sponsors with the programming that they will see in 2013."

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