Maxine Bourke has been selling crafts, curiosities and consumables for over 20 years at fairs in Fort Chipewyan, Alta., but the event hosted by the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre on Nov. 29 was her first in Hay River.
“It’s sort of my introduction to craft fairs here,” she said.
Besides wood signs made by her neighbour in Fort Chip, Bourke had small gift items, jellies, crafts and cleverly-packaged food items. She said there were some items for children and others to suit anyone.
“Hopefully this will bring a lot of people out,” she said, adding there are many such events on the horizon with the holiday season kicking off in earnest.
Bourke was only one of many vendors that night, including the Hay River Community Youth Centre, Georgina Fabian, Margaret Jerome and Ron Auger, the president of the board of directors for the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre.
Auger said he was pleased with the turnout early in the evening – all the while serving stew and bannock – but said he looked forward to the whole season as a period of renewal for the centre.
“Christmas this year we’ll be focusing on revitalizing the Friendship Centre,” he told The Hub. “This craft sale, and then a whole bunch of dinners and events throughout December, we see it as a new start with new goals.”
Auger himself will be stepping down as president in the new year and hopes he has paved the way for the next person to take on the role. He said the financial ups and downs, along with the centre having to close its doors for months at a time, were an experience from which he learned much, but said his intentions are to leave a clean slate for his successor.
“We want people to know we’re open again and running things,” he said of the craft fair and holiday events, in general. “It’s not about starting from scratch. We’re just bringing people back into the fold.”
Auger also noted that, while many people have approached the board with a multitude of ideas, there has only been a minority of those willing to spearhead the implementation of those ideas.
“There’s great initiatives out there,” he said. “But we need the people to come in and help us deliver them. We can’t do it alone.”
For Auger, it all comes back to revitalization of the centre, on both the board and in its programming. The hiring of Sharon Pekok as the centre’s executive director in the spring was a step in that process, but there is still work to be done.
“It’s a time for renewal,” Auger said. “It’s about bringing people into the centre and getting them involved in creating a place in which they want to be and something that they feel is a benefit to the community.”
Despite only having moved to Hay River in the fall, Bourke said she already likes it and believes events like craft fairs are good opportunities to get people out and about, and interacting.
“It just brings people out,” she said. “Hopefully if people are downtown for the parade and other things, they’ll drop in, but overall it’s just good for the community.”