One of the biggest events on the calendar for the Hay River Reserve will be even bigger this year, according to one of the organizers, April Martel.
“This is the first time we’re working so closely with other community groups,” she said, naming the Hay River Community Youth Centre, Grad 2014 Committee, Northern Youth Abroad Program, and Chief Sunrise Education Centre as some of the organizations that will be playing a large role in this year’s gathering from Feb. 27 to Mar. 2.
Martel said the idea was to give them the venue and opportunity to raise money for various projects. Chief Sunrise is looking to fund a trip to New York City for some of its students while members of the Northern Youth Abroad program attempts to raise funds for a trip to Africa by selling 50/50 tickets and collecting recycling.
“These are the organizations that approached us,” she said. “And we wanted to help them out because they all deal with youth. It’s all about the young people having fun.”
A greater focus on kids and youth is also a bit of a shift from past years, said Martel. Although the dog sled races and adult events like the talent show are generally the most popular and well-attended, prizes for the kids’ events have been increased this year in an attempt to draw them into participating more.
“We really want to make it more about the young people,” she said. “They’re always there to watch, but we want them to be entering into events too.”
Kamba Carnival draws people from all over the NWT and northern Alberta every year, said Martel. While this is her first year as part of the organizing committee, she said she knows the hard work will pay off. Some adjustments had to be made this year, such as moving the dates to coincide with the ever-popular dog races. As a result, tickets had to be sold faster, leading to the creation of a whole royal family as opposed to the traditional Kamba Queen title. According to Martel, it worked; the 5,000 tickets they had printed were sold out as of last week.
“It’s just a really big gathering of friends and family,” she said. “It’s not just KFN and Hay River, there’s always lots of people from out of town.”
K’atlodeeche First Nation’s Chief Roy Fabian agreed, saying the carnival is always a time for family and friends who don’t see each other often to get together and have a good time.
“For us, it’s just an opportunity to have some fun in the middle of winter,” he told The Hub. “All the events we put on are about our culture and we really want to keep the young people interested.”
Hand games and tea boiling will be among the competitions there, but Fabian said the biggest event is always the dog races, which, bring him back to his childhood spent on the traplines. He said he remembers the cacophony of 120 dogs getting ready to leave and then the dead silence after they did.
“You could hear yourself breathe,” he said.
Fabian said he knew the event would be a success, as it has been in previous years.
“We want to welcome everybody, coming from all over the NWT and the North,” he said. “And I hope everyone has a good time.”