Osoyoos is facing a shortage of volunteers and other difficulties in hosting events that have already led to the cancellation of a major attraction for 2020, and that is not the only difficulty facing events in the area.
The Cactus Jalopies car show was already announced to be cancelled earlier this month. The show, which would have been in its 16th year of running across the June long weekend, draws thousands to the border town.
“It was a huge task, and they’ve done it year after year,” said Debbie Dundass, the organizer of the Music in the Park, who presented before council on behalf of events in the area. “They were getting more exhausted and challenged, and just made the decision to take a break.”
The cancellation was a red flag for Dundass and the organizers behind some of the other events, bringing them together to talk before approaching the council.
The Osoyoos fireworks are another major event for the town, often boasted as being the largest display in Western Canada, and are organized by one main person.
“It’s one woman, there’s a crew, with two people who coordinate that,” said Dundass “If they decide to take a vacation, it’s gone. There’s no backup.”
In the presentation to the council, one of the difficulties facing the events is the burnout, and the ageing out, of the volunteer organizers.
“What started to happen was the feeling of exhaustion and the amount of work, and the feeling of guilt from ‘If I step back, the event may be cancelled,’” said Dundass. “The catalyst for us to start talking was the cancellation for Cactus Jalopies for 2020.”
A shortage of volunteer organizers isn’t the only issue facing events in the area. The events are also facing difficulties with funding, promotion, and coordinating with each other and the town.
“You could bring 300 people to help us, and that won’t solve all our concerns,” said Dundass. “With the town, with all the paperwork, the different departments, different individuals. There’s no one point-person for the town.”
Following on the presentation to the council on Jan. 20, already there are steps being considered by the town council on addressing the issues.
“Our director of community services and I are going to meet, and we’ll look at the process of applying for permits and getting town assistance to streamline the process,” said Allan Chabot, the town’s chief administrative officer. “To step our game with respect to the support we can give to these groups. Because since coming to Osoyoos, I’ve never ceased to be amazed by the number of volunteers and the number of events they facilitate in this community.
Some of the potential solutions that were outlined in the presentation to the council included establishing a volunteer organizing bureau for the town to coordinate and connect volunteers to events, as well as establishing a single person in the town to act as an events coordinator. It’s hoped that solutions are made, so that the town can keep their events going.
“We’re working in isolation,” said Dundass. “We can’t continue to do this alone, as volunteers.”
The date for the meeting between the event organizers, Osoyoos and District Arts Council, Destination Osoyoos, and members of the town administration has not yet been scheduled.
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