Village festivals must reflect who we are, honestly

Andru McCracken headshot
Andru McCracken, Editor

By Andru McCracken


Parents want to bring the circus to town, but they don’t want to pay. Instead they look left and look right and say, hey, can you spare $250 worth of volunteer time so my kid can jump in a bouncy castle?

Valemount is a community of 1000 people. Yes, you read that right, 1000. Not 10 million, not 10 thousand, one thousand people.

When we host our annual village celebrations we need to be mindful of that.

Every few years Valemountain Days teeters on the brink of extinction. Why? Because people refuse to take into account what this population number means.

This year is no different.

To run the festival – as it has been run – takes 110 volunteers. Is it smart or wise to assume that 110 people will sign up, much less come out?

Sometimes they do sign up. Two years ago they did, V-Days was brought roaring back to life at the last minute thanks to super human efforts of one individual and those she inspired. Everyone signed up to be a part of the glorious return.

But not everybody showed up for their promised roles. The superhumans filled in the holes.

The only visible damage was some burnout.

It continued for another year…. then Kaboom and fizzle.

20 people can’t volunteer 110 people’s worth of time. It is impossible.

How many volunteers can we actually get for Valemountain Days?

Let’s go to the data.

Statistics Canada says that there are 135 families with kids in town. If each family had one parent volunteer that would be 135 volunteers, right? Wrong. 45 of those are single parent families.

We have about 90 families that could lend a parent to the cause. That’s before people go away for holidays, are sick, or have kids that are sick. (Or maybe parents just want to enjoy the festival with their kids? Is that wrong?)

Oh, don’t forget the softball tournament…. How about people up all night on Friday preparing their floats for the parade?

Let’s say we can get one in four parents to lend a hand.

That’s roughly 23 people if we’re lucky. Why not plan something that takes 20 volunteers and three extra. Add in 10 super duper grandparents and brilliant community members to help out and take the burden off for a while.

The question is not what can we pull off, it is what can we sustain.

In every other measure we are a conservative community: that’s how we vote, it appears to be how we think. But when it comes to the local festival, we want to go big. We’ve got cash for a 1990 Ranger with some rust, but accidentally walk away from the dealership with a brand new F-350.

It can’t last because we can’t make payments. Failing in this festival thing is an awful blow to the community’s morale. I know, I’ve felt it many times.

Here’s a plan for a sustainable Valemountain Days: Don’t imagine everyone else is as keen as you are.

We can’t force people to volunteer who don’t want to. Leave them be. Allow them to enjoy the festival. Don’t count on them, and we won’t miss them later.

Every volunteer hour is precious, including your own. If the new board, elected last Monday night, treats every volunteer hour like the committee has treated dollars in the past, we’ll be good. For forever.

Last year, I mistakenly scheduled the bands to play until 9 p.m. on Friday night in Centennial Park. Needless to say, all of the other tents and all of the attractions and most of the people were gone including the three-story inflatable waterslide.

You wouldn’t believe what I saw. About 25 kids jam-packed on the merry-go-round rocking out to the funky tunes of Mike Berkenpas and the Brightlight Boys. The merry-go-round is the same one that has been there for 50 years.

By making this festival about inflatable toys we diminish the one ingredient we desperately lack as a community: carefree time together.

Instead of charging kids to bounce, we should relax security at the log rolling event. Every year the kids clamber up on the adjacent sand pile and push their friends down into the water pit. This is it. This is what they want.

Give kids a bedsheet and mound of mud and call it the veil mount festival and they will have just as much fun, probably more. Let’s dial it back this year and enjoy some community time together. Because that’s what it is about.

Blair Dryden and John McKirdy battle it out at the log rolling competition at Valemountain Days 2019. The pond had a magnetic pull on children, who appeared to think they had been transported to the beach. On the other hand, adults like Blair and John were motivated to stay out of it owing to its cold temperature. /BRIAN MCKIRDY

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