News » Whistler

FE&A adds emphasis to local events

Youth Games aim to replicate success of Whistler Cup



As the future of provincial festival funding for Whistler remains mostly unclear, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is starting to shift its focus to more localized events.

The new direction is subtle but noticeable in this year's proposed Festivals, Events and Animation (FE&A) budget.

Sixteen events will split $737,600, pending approval through the municipal budget process.

One event getting FE&A funding for the first time is the Whistler Half Marathon (WHM), which will receive $10,000.

"Any funding like this is great, and this particular program I'm a huge, huge supporter of," said race director Dave Clark.

"I think for a town like ours that really obviously relies on tourism dollars, to have a program like this that's driven through the province and into the municipality is instrumental in not only getting main events here — things like Ironman and whatnot — but supporting local ones as well, that are really sort of embedded in the community."

The WHM, now entering its seventh year (this year's event is scheduled for June 3), is hoping to use the money to grow its offerings into more of a weekend-long event.

"How do we add to it so that it adds value for those folks that are coming, and it gets them to want to stay longer?" Clark said.

"So we really see a great opportunity with that $10,000 to add to what we've already got to really drive that."

But it's not just established events that will see funding this year. The FE&A oversight committee also proposed $20,000 for the business planning and concept development of a new multi-sport festival geared towards youth.

The festival's working name is the Whistler Youth Games, and the plan is to incorporate competitive sliding, Nordic, snowboard and freestyle skiing events into a new festival similar in nature to the successful Whistler Cup.

The intention is to launch in April of 2018, said Lucinda Jagger, vice president of sport with Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL).

"We would hope that it could be built on the Whistler Cup and actually add value to the Whistler Cup, but also add value to the Whistler Ski and Snowboard Festival," Jagger said.

"I think there's plenty of possibility going forward with it. I think it's a matter of seeing what it looks like, and making sure that we're doing a good job and developing a good product, and then if it leads to other things, that's fantastic."

The event is being jointly developed with input from WSL, Whistler Blackcomb, the RMOW and Tourism Whistler (TW).

The FE&A contribution is instrumental in developing the project, Jagger said.

"We're a not-for-profit, WSL, as is TW, so for us to invest in risky projects, we need partners to help us do that, and help facilitate bringing people together," she said.

With any luck, the Whistler Youth Games will someday carry the same weight as the Whistler Cup — and a collaboration between the two events is possible somewhere down the line.

"I see where the Whistler Cup has gone, and in my career I've travelled all over the world to all kinds of ski resorts, and guaranteed you'll see a Whistler Cup coat on the hill," Jagger said.

"It's neat to see that our community is out there in the sport world because of this specific and very unique event... Can we make that even greater? And then of course bring people to Whistler at a time of year where things slow down, and keep that activation going through the spring, which is super important."

Also new on the funding list is $17,000 for two guest-speaker events at the Audain Art Museum (AAM).

The events are scheduled for May 5 at 7 p.m. (focused on the work of Ellsworth Kelly) and May 6 at 1 p.m. (focused on the work of Henri Matisse).

The events are part of the AAM's Special Exhibition Engagement Series, said curator Darrin Martens, in an email.

"Held annually, this series of projects will dovetail with regional and national special exhibitions and programs within a flexible timetable to maximize visitation and engagement. With a focus on guest retention, this initiative is a key capacity building enterprise for the institution and municipality," Martens wrote.

"Partnerships with the American Federation of Arts (AFA), Independent Curators International (ICA) — both out of New York and the National Gallery of Canada — ensures the highest quality of guest lecturers and speakers in order to build a challenging, multi-generational engagement program within an open, creative and collaborative learning environment."

Panelists for the speaker events include: UBC professor emeritus Serge Guibaut; Jodi Hauptman, senior curator at the Museum of Modern Art (NYC); Margery King, curator of the American Federation of Arts (NYC); Richard H Axsom, curator of the Grande Rapids Arts Museum; Yve-Alain Bois (Kelly scholar); and Carter Foster, curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC).

The biggest chunks of FE&A funding in 2017 will go to Ironman ($250,000); Tough Mudder and Tough Mudder Half ($112,500); and the World Ski and Snowboard Festival ($100,000).

Other events getting funding this year: Whistler Film Festival ($40,000); Cornucopia ($40,000); Whistler Children's Festival ($30,000); Whistler Pride ($25,000); RBC GranFondo ($22,500); Crankworx ($20,000); Whistler Village Beer Festival ($15,000); Whistler 50 and Ultra ($15,000); Whistler Writers Festival ($12,000); and Thinkbike (formerly Outerbike, $8,600).

Money for the FE&A program comes in the form of Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) payments from the province.

The province invested more than $98 million in the tourism sector last year, and $10.5 million every year for tourism infrastructure and amenities in B.C.'s RMI communities.

Since 2006, the province has invested $108.6 million in those 14 communities.

Though the RMI program is set to expire in December 2017, Victoria said it is committed to supporting resort communities, and is considering policy options regarding the way forward.