After a one-year hiatus, the Okanagan International Children’s Festival is scheduled to come back in May 2014 better than ever.
“We are super excited,” said chair Jason Cox of the festival scheduled for May 22 to 24.
“I think the best thing we could do for the children’s festival here was to give it that rest and get the organizational capacity straightened away and improved. We know we are coming back with a better, stronger and more sustainable festival.”
Cox said he had the “unfortunate responsibility” to let the community know the festival was going to take a break for a year last March. The executive director at the time resigned his position a few months earlier and with little time to advertise for the position and hire someone before the festival in May, the Okanagan International Children’s Festival decided to take a break. With a new executive director in place the festival learned in April that they were facing a financial crisis with the title sponsor, Rotary International, leaving.
Barb Haynes has taken over the position of executive director of the festival and brings with her a wealth of community event experience. She has an eight-month contract with the festival and said finding a new title sponsor is one of the first things on her list to accomplish.
“I really want to see them on a comfortable foundation so they can grow the festival and move it forward. I think there is tons of room in the Okanagan for a really solid children’s festival and the foundation of this one has been amazing all along and it should continue,” said Haynes.
“I want to see it succeed and solidly positioned in our community for an amazing opportunity for kids and families.”
Cox said they were excited to offer Haynes the opportunity because she has event experience as the former general manager of the Challenge Penticton and her ties to the community through her former job with the Downtown Penticton Association.
“Barb is such a strong community person and she has good PR skills which is what we need to promote the festival now,” said Cox. “We think she brings a very strong skill set to the festival and we are excited to have her on board.”
Throughout its 10-year history, the children’s festival has maintained balanced budgets through ticket sales, grants, fundraising events and donor support.
They secured two grants, one was put in place in September and another in April 2014. On Wednesday at the annual general meeting, organizers relayed to returning and new board members that they are in a good spot financially.
“We went over our financial position which is very strong right now which is great. But, we are still looking for donations, sponsorships and people who would like to contribute to the festival to ensure that we are able to keep a sustainable organization moving forward,” said Cox. “We are hoping people get excited and participate in the festival because it is going to be fantastic this year.”
Organizers estimated that over 10,000 people attended the 2012 event. Cox said they have all of the international talent under contract to perform in May and are currently working on signing local acts. He added most of the work that needs to be done is logistics. Cox said the festival will return to Okanagan Lake Park, although it has not yet been secured with the city.
“The lion’s share of the work is done. The posters are finished and distributed to local school’s. It is 100 per cent guaranteed it is going to happen, we are just doing all the nuts and bolts at this point,” said Cox. The children’s festival is expected to announce its lineup in the coming weeks. Cox said it will be a mix of old favourites like Fred Penner and some new acts.
Anyone interested in donating or becoming a volunteer for the festival can learn more information www.okchildrensfestival.com or drop by their office at 202-69 Nanaimo Ave. East, or call 250-493-8800 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.