WinterPRIDE organizers are unable to take advantage of a last-minute $37,000 funding grant from the municipality to boost the annual upcoming gay ski week.
The augmentation funding, part of the municipality's $3.1 million Festivals, Events and Animation (FE&A) budget, was designed to bring in a big-name talent for the mid-week comedy show of the WinterPRIDE festival. This marks the first time WinterPRIDE has secured municipal monies.
WinterPRIDE's CEO and executive director Dean Nelson said organizers looked at Joan Rivers, Kathy Griffin and Lily Tomlin but in the end they were unable to ink a deal in the short window before deadline.
Nelson has now asked Whistler to hold the money in trust for the 2015 festival.
"At this stage we're, of course, very disappointed that we weren't able to make it work this year, but we're really hopeful that having this funding available and having it carried over for next year will be more of a blessing for us," said Nelson.
The municipality was unable to confirm if the money will carry over.
"The RMOW was made aware that WinterPRIDE was unfortunately not able to confirm entertainment to augment the 2014 program as agreed to by the FE&A Oversight Committee," according to an emailed statement from the municipal communications department. "Any further discussions or requests would go before the FE&A Oversight Committee in the new year."
The turn of events comes as no surprise given Nelson's concern about the funding windows and his push to have it confirmed earlier. He even submitted a $105,000 request to the municipality in September in advance of any formal requests for proposals, given that WinterPRIDE is the first major festival in Whistler's calendar, falling on the last week of January.
Despite looming deadlines, WinterPRIDE learned of the funding in the later half of November. The four-week window, framed by U.S. Thanksgiving and Christmas, wasn't enough time to secure talent.
"I'm hopeful that they (the Resort Municipality of Whistler) will be understanding," said Nelson. "They produce the Whistler Live series. They know what it's like to produce concerts and how hard it is to get talent sometimes."
The idea behind the funding is to help WinterPRIDE grow.
This is the same funding pot that last year boosted Ironman with $250,000, Tough Mudder with more than $100,000, and World Ski and Snowboard Festival with $135,000, among others.
"The purpose of bringing in that type of talent was to raise awareness of the festival, drive room nights, and really try and get more people in mid-week," explained Nelson.
"That was our whole concept.
"It's meant to try and help us become more sustainable, to take it to the next level where we're able to secure some other sponsors that have never really considered us before because we just haven't had that type of event that's relevant to them."
As Whistler works to develop and foster its ever-growing festival line-up, it is working out kinks in the system. Last week the municipality announced the return of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to the summer line up of events.
Nelson hopes that having the funds secured for the 2015 festival will mean organizers can promote the comedy headliner at the 2014 festival and entice festival-goers to book on the spot.
"We'll see what happens with the municipality," said Nelson. "The ball is in their court."