‘I learned so much’

Syd­ney Wa­ter­front Fes­ti­val gives stu­dents valu­able work ex­pe­ri­ence

Cape Breton Post - - Cape Breton - BY NIKKI SUL­LI­VAN ni­cole.sul­li­van@cb­post.com

The Syd­ney Wa­ter­front Fes­ti­val was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for six post-sec­ondary stu­dents who were hired to or­ga­nize it.

“My stu­dents, with­out them, some of it might have hap­pened but it cer­tainly wouldn’t have been the fes­ti­val that it was,” said Michelle Wil­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Syd­ney Wa­ter­front Dis­trict.

Wil­son is the only paid staff at the dis­trict. With­out the stu­dents, who were hired through pro­vin­cial and fed­eral grants, she would have had a dif­fi­cult time try­ing to get the week of events or­ga­nized.

“I can’t say enough (about the stu­dents.) Lit­er­ally, I am speech­less. They are phe­nom­e­nal. They all worked so hard,” she said.

Wil­son was pleased by the work ethic the stu­dents had and how they dealt with the bad weather for the clos­ing night.

“Sun­day, we didn’t know what was go­ing to go on with the weather, so Satur­day we had a meeting to discuss all our op­tions. Then our com­mu­ni­ca­tions per­son, she had a lit­tle of­fice set up and she was on top of so­cial me­dia all day with ques­tions and con­tacted me­dia as soon as we de­cided to post­pone the fire­works,” Wil­son said.

“I was re­ally im­pressed with how things went on Sun­day. The rain held off un­til all of our events fin­ished. I am glad we post­poned the fire­works.”

Kelsie Fer­gu­son, from Syd­ney River, was one stu­dent hired as event co­or­di­na­tor. The third-year ki­ne­si­ol­ogy stu­dent at Dal­housie Univer­sity was on con­tract un­til Fri­day, but vol­un­teered her time for the last two days.

“Kelsie was cry­ing Sun­day night at the con­cert say­ing, ‘I don’t want to leave. This has been the best sum­mer ever,’” Wil­son said.

“It was re­ally good. I re­ally en­joyed it. It was re­ally cool to see it all un­fold af­ter all the hard work the stu­dents did,” said Fer­gu­son.

“All of the stu­dents were great and Michelle was great. It re­ally helps when you like the peo­ple you are work­ing with.”

Although be­ing be­hind the scenes at a fes­ti­val so big was some­times stress­ful, Fer­gu­son loved it and is now con­sid­er­ing a ca­reer in event plan­ning.

“I learned so much… like how much work ac­tu­ally goes into it. It’s not just what is go­ing to hap­pen at that event. It’s stuff like getting se­cu­rity. Peo­ple don’t re­al­ize how much stuff has to be done to make an event like this hap­pen,” she said, ad­ding she plans on ap­ply­ing again next year.

Cape Bre­ton Univer­sity busi­ness stu­dent Tori Hor­vath also wants to ap­ply again, even though she is grad­u­at­ing this year and won’t be el­i­gi­ble for a grant un­less she is a re­turn­ing stu­dent.

“I have al­ready told Michelle I want to be on the com­mit­tee next year and she has to hire me back,” Hor­vath said.

“That’s why I am de­bat­ing go­ing back to school again next year. Michelle is an awe­some boss. But if I de­cide to not go back to school, I told her I would still be on the com­mit­tee. It is great to have that ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Be­fore work­ing on the fes­ti­val, Hor­vath was con­sid­er­ing a ca­reer in mar­ket­ing sports teams. Now she is think­ing of ex­plor­ing event plan­ning as her job af­ter she fin­ishes school.

“I am re­ally happy with the way it turned out; the peo­ple who showed up, the num­bers of peo­ple we had. I know there were a mil­lion fes­ti­vals go­ing on that week, so it was great to see peo­ple out at our events,” she said.

“I am from here so it is great to see com­mu­nity come to­gether and for us to all have some­thing to do. And for me to plan it and run it makes me feel like I am do­ing some­thing good for the com­mu­nity.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO/SYD­NEY WA­TER­FRONT FES­TI­VAL

Kelsie Fer­gu­son, from left, Ni­cole Dro­han, Tori Hor­vath, Michelle Wil­son, Michaela MacMil­lan, Kelly Leach and Tan­ner Leudy or­ga­nized this year’s Syd­ney Wa­ter­front Fes­ti­val.

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