Hay River’s arts and music festival has been cancelled for summer 2016.
The Hay Days Festival is usually held in the beginning of July, with musicians and artisans showcasing their creations for the weekend. However, this year the festival has been cancelled due to a shortage of volunteers.
Ken Latour has been chair of the festival’s committee for the last two out of six running years.
“The festival was tremendously successful – the last two years have been huge,” he said. “It’s not interest that’s declining. I think people are disappointed that it’s not happening.”
Latour said the problem lies with the volunteer base. Working with only four organizers in the last year has been difficult, said Latour.
“Like any other event, it’s usually the same key people, and those people get burnt out at times,” he said. “Our music community here in Hay River is quite small, so there’s already a limited amount of people who have a vested interest in organizing this event.”
“I’m going to miss it this year,” he said.
Hope is not lost for the festival in future years, though. The Rotary Club will be taking over some of the organization of the event for 2017, keeping some of the original Hay Days organizers on in a different capacity.
“We had been talking to the Rotary for a couple of years,” said Latour. “They have helped out a lot since the festival’s inception, and this conversation has happened before. They’re a larger group, they’re resourceful, they’re tied into the community and they have lots of experience.”
Rotary will be taking on the responsibility of getting support for the festival and organizing the events.
Tom Lakusta, president of the Hay River Rotary Club, said he is excited to take on the task.
“It’s a nice fit. Rotary’s interests are in literacy, and music, arts, and culture are all part of literacy,” he said. “They need someone to help, and we are happy to help lead things.”
April Glaicar is joining the Rotarians and will be taking on the role of co-chair for the arts side of the festival. Dewey Roy, also a new Rotarian, will be co-chair for the musical entertainment.
“I think it’s a great event, and it has been a great event for our community,” said Glaicar. “With the Rotary involved it gives us some more volunteers to spread the work out and continue the event on an annual basis.”
“The past committee is really giving us pointers, trying to ensure success of the event in the future,” she said. “Their input is key to helping the Rotary with this.”
The festival’s board, made up of Latour, Jayne Haywood, Bailey Mackie, Anne Boudreau and Jared Monkman will continue to be involved with the event in different ways.
“I’m really grateful that the Rotary is willing to partner with us and lead the organization side of things,” said Latour. “It will basically be a Rotary event now.”
Latour said he hopes to see new things for the festival when it comes back in 2017, including involving more cultural groups, offering a wider range of workshops, encouraging more artisans to display their work and catering to Hay River’s tourism industry. He said there has been discussion about venues, and how the location of the events affects the turnout.
“People don’t want to be inside on a Saturday night in July,” he said.
“We’ve talked a lot about going where the audience already is, instead of waiting for people to come to us. We hope to make more of a connection with the community that way.”
With the cancellation, Latour is hoping the festival will be able to come back bigger and better having had a year to plan.
“I think this is a terrific community event and it has the potential to bring the community together,” he said. “For the artists, this festival is really important. Musicians need to have events to prepare for and motivate them, and artisans need a place to exhibit their works. And it is a great celebration of summer.”
Glaicar said the organizing committee has already started reaching out to musicians, artists and workshop leaders to get next year’s event on the calendar. She is hoping to secure the festival for the second week of July 2017, depending on the NWT festival circuit.
– Diana Yeager