While presenting some of the new and old events for its 63rd festival in February, the Vernon Winter Carnival Society used the opportunity to address a big concern with city council.
Outgoing executive director Vicki Proulx – who will step down from the role with the society at the end of the 2023 Carnival Feb. 3-12 – told council at its Nov. 28 meeting, that Carnival will feature more than 130 events.
There will be nearly 30 new events, including an event called Carnival Kickball, to be held at Grahame Park, and a big concert at Kal Tire Place featuring Canadian country music stars The Reklaws.
But those two events, said Proulx, also bring a “consistent issue” Carnival is faced with: the accessibility and affordability of booking city venues.
“We were confused when booking the Grahame Park ball diamonds for our Kickball tournament to learn we have to pay full price for the diamonds in the middle of February,” said Proulx. “And when we booked Kal Tire Place for the concert, we were shocked to learn that the rental price tag is $27,000 and that is the non-profit rate.”
Proulx said in a message to the Morning Star, the price quoted for the use of the Grahame Park softball diamonds for the Kickball tournament was $1,300 for two days at $226 per diamond.
The costs, she said, have significant impacts on Carnival’s ability to organize events that break even or make a small bit of money. Proulx thought council might be interested because the cost “could be prohibitive to generating interest from others looking to bring events to Vernon.”
The Reklaws’ concert, she said, is the first such musical event at Kal Tire Place in five years.
“An event of this magnitude can carry an economic impact of close to a million dollars,” said Proulx. “Our friends with comparable venues in Penticton and Kamloops host multiple concert events each month. I would invite council to consider at what point will the City of Vernon have another look at the cost structure associated with not only Kal Tire Place, but other city venues such as ball diamonds, parks and the rec centre auditorium.”
Proulx said Carnival believes it has a shared interest in looking at the cost structure of venues to ensure it doesn’t lose these opportunities to other communities.
“These venues were built by our community, for our community, and right now they are not accessible to many organizations,” she said.
The society is asking council to take two steps to support Carnival and the entire community in 2023, and going forward.
Step 1 is would the city be willing to research cost comparisons. Step 2 is, on the basis of that research, would council be willing to accept a variance on costs immediately with the cost of the rental for the Reklaws concert Feb. 10, and the Carnival Kickball Tournament at Grahame Park Feb. 11 and 12?
Coun. Akbal Mund thanked Proulx for raising Carnival’s concerns.
“We heard from another non-profit group in the summer,” he said. “Vernon Winter Carnival is not the only organization. You do find ways to put these events on but you think, ‘is it worth my time and effort?’ You’re not the only group asking.”
Coun. Teresa Durning also mentioned the topic came up at a recent tourism committee meeting.
“A subcommittee was formed there,” she said. “Don’t doubt for a minute, but we will do the work around it.”