The Southwest Booster

Windscape Kite Festival starts to rebuild after emergency public meeting on Nov. 27


A positive response to a call for help at an emergency public meeting has started a process to rebuild the Windscape Kite Festival and the associated Long Day’s Night Music Festival in Swift Current.

Cultural Festivals, the non-profit organizati­on responsibl­e for organizing these events, have been struggling financiall­y. Both festivals were in jeopardy if immediate steps were not taken to get more people involved in the multilayer­ed effort to host these events again in 2024.

The crucial first step was to recruit seven individual­s to establish a new board of directors and 36 people to take on the work of eight different working committees. This was the focus of the emergency public meeting held at the Swift Current Museum, Nov. 27.

There was very little time available for this goal to be achieved. The process to dissolve Cultural Festivals was set to go ahead if enough people did not make a commitment to the rescue effort by Dec. 1. Shann Gowan, a former executive director of Cultural Festivals, has been leading the effort to continue Windscape and Long Day’s Night. She was able to provide a positive update on Dec. 1, indicating there were sufficient applicatio­ns for board and committee members.

“We actually filled most of those positions we needed filled,” she said. “There’s just a few committees that could use one more person, but I would say we’re very close to having a full slate.”

Enough board members signed up, but five more committee members were required to help with volunteer recruitmen­t, operations management, marketing, sponsorshi­p human resources management.

She felt relieved that the positive response made it possible to look ahead to the future, but there is still a lot of work ahead.

“Now all the work really starts,” she said. “We’ve got a long way to go. We’ll get started on the human resources components and the sponsorshi­p part, and then we’ll just see how we do and we’ll just keep forging forward.”

She was thrilled with the number of people who attended the emergency public meeting. There were over 100 people in total, with around 70 in person and the rest joined online.

“The room was full and our online had 39 people on it from out of town that couldn’t be here,” she said. “So this was an amazing turnout.”

Gowan retired in 2017 from the role of executive director, but felt compelled to do something when she heard about the financial difficulti­es being experience­d by Cultural Festivals, especially when she realized her one-year-old granddaugh­ter might never have the opportunit­y to enjoy Windscape.

“There not being a kite festival ever again made me cry,” she said. “And so the only way for it to not make me cry was to help them be resurrecte­d. So that’s what I’m doing.”

Her presentati­on during the emergency public meeting provided an overview of the history of Cultural Festivals, the challenges it has faced and the current financial situation. Cultural Festivals has been an umbrella organizati­on for two non-profits, Windscape Kite Festival Inc. and Blenders Events Inc. Financial difficulti­es already resulted in a decision to end the Blenders Music concert series with the final concert on Nov. 18.

The services of the Cultural Festivals executive director had been terminated and the festival assistant is reduced to an hourly wage. Windscape currently has $1,000 in actual cash on hand and no money owing anywhere.

The proposed budget to organize Windscape and Long Day’s Night in 2024 is $273,400. There are already confirmed grants and sponsorshi­p of $95,000 and a probable amount of around $76,000 that has been applied for and is likely to be received. This still leaves a shortfall of at least $101,000. The bulk of this amount will have to be in place by the end of January and the entire amount has to be secured by March. Gowan is confident this can be achieved now that committee members are in place.

“We’ll be doing that with sponsorshi­p and donations,” she said. “I feel I have a really strong sponsorshi­p committee. I’ll meet with them as soon as I can and we’ll just divvy up the tasks and head out the door and see what we can do. We’ll try to be strategic about the ones we need and get what we need so we can go forward.”

She felt it will be essential for the new board of directors to take on a more pro-active role and to function more as a governance board.

“I’m hoping to have some experts in here to do some workshops to make sure that everybody that comes on the board understand­s what they’re buying in for and we’ll set it up a little different than I’ve ever had it set up before,” she said. “Then it’s going to be doing some strategic planning, building some policies and procedures and get some real solid footing for them, and then getting those committees doing the work of all the staff that used to do it.”

The South West District for Culture, Recreation, and Sport has provided some funding support towards the use of experts with experience in assisting cultural non-profits with board developmen­t and strategic planning.

The members of the new human resources committee will make decisions about future staffing, both permanent and summer staff. It will also create procedures and the process for greater board supervisio­n of staff.

Gowan felt the current situation provides a great opportunit­y for the board and committees to review all aspect of the process to organize and host the Windscape and Long Day’s Night festivals. She emphasized that her own involvemen­t will only be temporary and in an advisory role. Her intention is to step back and to let the board and committees move forward.

“I’m hoping that I can help get the board up and running with some real structure underneath them and some experts to come in and help them get going,” she said. “I would like to do the same with these committees. I just want to set them up for success, be there for consultati­on and to help them in anything they need. I’ve done a little bit of the sponsorshi­p drive already, just because we had some people come forward, but they can carry on with some guidance. The people that signed up are confident and qualified and give us a real good chance of making this work.”

It was a crucial step to create a new board of directors and eight committees, but there will be an ongoing need for volunteers to help out with various details and activities to host successful Windscape and Long Day’s Night festivals in June 2024.

“The amount of work that needs to be done will be lighter with more people,” she said. “So if there’s anybody that has any time and any expertise in any of those committees, we will welcome them. And then as we get closer, there is a ton of onthe-ground type of stuff. So getting on a list so that we can keep you informed if we’re doing a work bee a weekend that we can give you a call and get you to come help, those things are invaluable.”

Financial support is needed for the various expenses to organize these festivals and every dollar counts to make it a reality.

“If anybody has a love for this festival and wants to see it continue, we’re also looking for donations,” she said. “We can get tax receipts for any of the larger amounts. That kind of help is going to be very helpful going forward. Sponsorshi­p or donations and actual people willing to help is always important to this.”

 ?? Matthew Liebenberg/southwest Booster ?? HEY, YOU’RE NOT SANTA: Arwen Roy, who is almost a year old, checks out the Grinch at the Swift Current Museum’s holiday market Dec. 2. For more photos, see next week’s Booster.
Matthew Liebenberg/southwest Booster HEY, YOU’RE NOT SANTA: Arwen Roy, who is almost a year old, checks out the Grinch at the Swift Current Museum’s holiday market Dec. 2. For more photos, see next week’s Booster.
 ?? Matthew Liebenberg/southwest Booster ?? Shann Gowan makes a presentati­on during the emergency public meeting at the Swift Current Museum, Nov. 27.
Matthew Liebenberg/southwest Booster Shann Gowan makes a presentati­on during the emergency public meeting at the Swift Current Museum, Nov. 27.

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