Every year Vernon’s Winter Carnival transforms the city into a snowy playground, and thanks to government funding the 60th anniversary of the event has the chance to be more enchanting than ever.
The Vernon Winter Carnival Society has received a grant for $150,000 over the next two years, and with its 60th anniversary coming in 2020 the funds arrive just in time to pay proper homage to the carnival’s history.
The funding will be used to expand the list of events at the carnival, adding new features and bringing back some classic favourites.
“We do know for sure we’re gong to be bringing back the Ice Palace, which is definitely an iconic piece of winter carnival,” said Vicki Proulx, the carnival’s executive director.
Ice carving and jam can curling are other past events that may be brought back to life for the carnival’s 60th.
The funding will also be used for greater promotion of the carnival, including an out-of-market campaign that will aim to reach tourists far beyond the Okanagan.
“We are going to be reaching out to tourists in the lower mainland, Vancouver Island, into Spokane, and hoping for a few international opportunities as well,” said Proulx. “Now that we know that we have the funding to do that, we’re really excited to explore the opportunity.”
“We’re excited that we can make the 60th anniversary as special as it should be,” added Deb Walker, Chair of the carnival society.
“We wanted to bring back a lot of the old from the very first year, 1961. We’ve started by doing our buttons the way they were done the first year,” Walker said, pointing to the triangular pin she and Proulx were both sporting at the announcement of the funding.
Much of the marketing campaign will be geared towards getting word of the carnival out to younger people.
“We really want to try and engage out youth a bit more,” says Proulx. “It’s difficult to have a new generation coming in that’s doesn’t really know carnival very well.”
The Winter Carnival Society loosely estimates that as many as 30,000 people attend events at the Winter Carnival on average. But with the grant secured, the Society will now be able to track visitors to the region during the festival to get a clearer picture of the impact the festival has on the community – something they’ve never been able to do before.
“We’re looking at some options with Telus and with Bell to start tracking where people are coming from (and) how long they’re staying for,” Proulx said.
The society applied for the grant earlier this year through Western Economic Diversification Canada, and the money was made possible by the Canadian Experiences Fund.