"Winter can be harsh, especially for those not prepared, and it has felt long this year, but it is still beautiful."
“Winter can be harsh, especially for those not prepared, and it has felt long this year, but it is still beautiful.”

Growing up, I spent my summers at my Grandma’s cottage, and the best thing about the end of the summer was the Cumberland County Exhibition, held in my parent’s home town over Labour Day weekend. It was essentially the homecoming weekend, lots of people who had moved away showed up, there were fair rides, craft, bake and cattle shows, tug-of-war competitions – you know, something for everyone. I actually wasn’t even aware of the summer events in my own home-town and surrounding communities until I was an adult, because for me, “the Ex” was the summer event.

Of course, I had no idea how much effort and volunteer time went in to creating that event. When the event itself started to flag, especially after the roof of the curling rink (which housed many of the events) collapsed one winter, we all thought it was sad. I guess we accepted that was just the state of things, and maybe because I was growing up and learning about other things, I didn’t worry too much about it. I actually don’t know if that festival has ever been revived, but I think that town in many ways is similar to Valemount or McBride.

I know a lot of Valemount has rallied behind Valemountain Days, the traditional summer festival, which is great to see, especially after it nearly died last year. And I understand that some don’t think this was the right time for the Village to stop waiving fees for the Community Hall.

But I take offense to the idea that this event is so much more important than other non-profit events that come to the Village for support. If people were saying that all non-profit organizations should be able to get the fees waived for their events – well, that would be a different discussion. But I haven’t heard anyone saying that. There are a lot of people, working with a lot of non-profits, doing a lot of important work for their community. And I think for one of those groups to stand up and say they are more deserving than everyone else – that is egotistical, and not community minded.

Sure, you can say the event is for everybody – but not everyone can actually go, or is interested. I have never made it to the festival myself, for one reason or another (mostly work), though I’ve been here over three years. I won’t make it again this year, as I have an important event to attend in Nova Scotia that weekend. But I still support the event, in spirit, and through my tax dollars. It makes sense to me to charge admission to some of the events, because then the people who are actually able to enjoy it are the ones who pay more for it, and if 600 people attend and pay a dollar each, that will cover the rental fees. Of course the festival costs a lot more than that, but sometimes, but I personally don’t think it is fair to jump down the Village’s throat when they are already doing a lot for the festival.

I know for the people on the organizing committee, it probably feels like a kick in the teeth to be denied a request at what feels like the last minute, especially something you expected you’d receive, because you always have. But it is not insurmountable. There is still time to apply to other organizations for funding, and next year, maybe the committee can apply for more money from CBT than they did this year. They were approved this year for $4,200 for stuff they wanted for the festival, I see no reason why they can’t ask for more next year.

The committee also asked the Village to repair the roof on the beer gardens. The roof is clearly leaking, but how often is that building used, this one weekend a year? And on top of that, one of the recommendations in the province’s recent review of liquor laws is to “permit whole-site licensing for public events, eliminating ‘beer gardens.'” Not needing a fence or a wall around the beer gardens will change things for many organizations and events, and it is just one example of thinking outside the box to make things better. People told the provincial government requiring a wall was very limiting. They responded, and now we don’t need to fix a building that sits inside the outfield – maybe instead of paying to fix the roof, we could tear it down and buy a tent that can be used more often, in different places.

Sometimes, not liking situation just means you need to rethink how you approach an issue. But if all you can see is that the Village said no to waiving $600 in fees, then I am sure nothing I say will change your mind.