City eyes $75,000 for Bear Creek Folk Festival amid COVID-19 uncertainty

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The Bear Creek Folk Festival may get $75,000 in city funding as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic throws the event’s future into a state of flux.

Council discussed the allocations of the 2020 Large Scale Tourism Grant Funding via video conference at a Tuesday meeting with a final decision expected at a future meeting.

“When you look through the package and the range different events that the folk festival has organized throughout the community over the course of the year, it’s pretty clear that they have an extensive plan of trying to raise their own funds,” said Mayor Bill Given during the meeting.

According to festival data, the three-day ticketed event hosts 6,000 to 8,000 people on site per day with 35 per cent of attendees from more than 100 kilometres away.

“There is no other group that has been able to show as conclusively or as specifically that they are actually bringing lots of people from far away, who wouldn’t come to Grande Prairie normally, specifically for their event,” Given said.


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Festival Producer Sarah Card said they were still planning for a summer event but might cancel depending on the restrictions of the provincial government and how other music festivals were responding to the pandemic.

“This is a hard time for so many people across the board,” Card said in a statement.

“We are extremely grateful for all of the support that we receive and are actively working on ways in which we can, in turn, be supportive of our amazing community.”

Card added that they were looking into ways to foster community relationships in this current climate of social distancing.

A final decision on the festival’s fate may take a couple of months.

The festival previously received $87,500 in 2019 from this city grant along with $100,000 in both 2018 and 2019. Organizers had asked for $87,500 this year.

During a teleconference with media after the meeting, Given noted that the city was funding the festival “on a declining basis.”

“I think there’s a desire to see the event go and mature and be able to stand on its own two feet.”

The city also plans to give $25,000 to the Grande Prairie BuckWild PBR event.

While the city is looking at providing immediate relief for ratepayers during this pandemic, such as by deferring property taxes, Given emphasized that the municipality still needed to look towards growing the economy in Grande Prairie.

“There’s a recognition of council that these events would be important to our local economy in any case,” Given said.


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“They would probably be even more important in a situation where we made it through the COVID-19 issue and we’re (moving) on to try to encourage economic growth.”

Given noted that administration would follow up with organizers of the folk festival and the BuckWild PBR event to find out about contingency plans should the events get cancelled and also determine how to best safeguard the city’s investment.

The city will also consider allowing organizers to hold onto these funds for 2021 festivities should this year’s events get cancelled.

The Teepee Creek Stampede had asked for $100,000 but city administration did not recommend this grant allocation since the event did not meet the criteria of being held in the city, Evergreen Park or the Crosslink County Sportsplex.

Administration also did not recommend funding the Grande Prairie Stompede, which requested $45,000, due to its proposed revenue and its $147,000 profit in 2019.

The fifth annual Bear Creek Folk Festival is scheduled to take place on Borstad Hill in Muskoseepi Park from Aug. 14-16.

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