The Okanagan International Children’s Festival has ran into yet another roadblock.
Having already postponed this year’s event due to unforeseen key staffing changes, they are now facing a financial crisis.
“We are still remaining positive,” said Vicky Jones, executive director of the festival. “We will be reviewing the situation seriously in a couple of weeks. We are not in debt at the moment and that is what we are trying to avoid.”
The festival has lost its title sponsor, Rotary International, which has left a financial and organizational gap. Taking a hiatus for 2013 meant the funding the festival typically gets is also on pause, that leaves the festival struggling to find funds to pay for bills that will be incurred over the next year while they are in the planning stage for 2014.
“We knew Rotary were cutting down their involvement and probably wouldn’t have been a title sponsor this year, but our understanding was they weren’t going to completely leave the festival,” said Jones, who admitted she hasn’t had an opportunity to speak with Rotary yet. “It might be they thought it was a good opportunity, since the festival isn’t happening this year, to help out other charities. I can’t blame them. They have lots of demands on their time and money as well. It was just a shock to us because we didn’t think they were going to pull completely out.”
The festival is now searching for a new title sponsor. In the meantime, they are also pleading with the community for support. The festival recently received a donation of $1,000 from Oktoberfest amongst smaller donations from other organizations and residents. The board of directors is encouraging anyone involved in the festival as a funder, performer, volunteer or audience member to donate.
“Until we secure funding for the 2014 festival, we need the community to step up and show that they support the festival. If we can convince 200 people to donate $100 each, then we can continue to plan for next year,” said Jones.
The timing is tough for Jones, who was only recently hired as executive director to take over the spot Conrad Burek had resigned from in November. She said right now the focus is just the festival.
“I know this is so much bigger than me. The festival is very close to the heart of Penticton,” she said.
Throughout its 10-year history, the children’s festival has maintained balanced budgets through ticket sales, grants, fundraising events and donor support. There are two grants in place for the 2014 festival, but these funds are not available until September 2013 and April 2014 respectively. Jones said they are hoping to get onto the next City of Penticton council agenda to discuss what is happening.
Right now there are four options before the festival board, according to Jones: they can cancel the festival for good; the board could run the festival itself; it could put the society on hold in good-standing so it could be picked up later; or put on a smaller festival.
“With the last two options that means we would have to re-look for funding, because our funders currently give us money based on the existing size of the festival,” said Jones. “If we change that in any way we would have to go back to them and re-apply for funding.”
To learn how to donate to the Okanagan International Children’s Festival visit www.okchildrensfest.com, or phone 250-493-8800. As well, the Okanagan Falls Bike Rally (May 10 to 12) is holding a raffle for a Harley Davidson with partial proceeds to be donated the festival.