‘I learned so much’
Sydney Waterfront Festival gives students valuable work experience
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.”
Kelsie Ferguson, from left, Nicole Drohan, Tori Horvath, Michelle Wilson, Michaela MacMillan, Kelly Leach and Tanner Leudy organized this year’s Sydney Waterfront Festival.