White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin says the city is prepared to open a dialogue with the Community of Lights Events Society on becoming a partner in the Spirit of the Sea Festival, if only on a temporary basis.
In an email to Peace Arch News late Friday, Baldwin said “it would seem that the festival is in need of a boost, and it may be time for the city to become a partner – at least as an interim step.”
“We will discuss this with the society, and if there is a mutual appetite to engage in a partnership, our council can consider funding for the city’s participation as a new initiative for next year when we examine the 2014 budget in the fall.”
Society president Matt Todd said after the August long-weekend event he received community criticism focusing on a scaled-down festival and a truncated parade that some say disappointed residents and out-of-town guests.
Some also expressed concern to to PAN that the festival reflected poorly on the city.
But Baldwin’s letter said that in light of budget shortfalls, “Matt Todd and his board did extremely well to put on the show they did. There were many positives from this event… I applaud their efforts and their sacrifice.”
(Baldwin could not be reached for comment last week, nor could he be reached by PAN deadline Monday for further discussion.)
Noting that the event budget this year was less than $30,000 – down from budgets that reached as high as $125,000 in peak years – Baldwin acknowledged controversy surrounding the decision to confine festival activities to East Beach and the closure of Marine Drive.
And while he said the new format “worked pretty well,” he recognized there is disappointment at the absence of the traditional Torchlight Parade and fireworks.
The key to both, he suggested, is strong sponsorship – as well as a dedicated organizing team for the parade.
To encourage the reciprocal presence of floats and bands from other communities, White Rock may have to invest in a float with a volunteer team that will attend other cities’ parades, he added.
In another letter to the editor to be run in a subsequent edition, Spirit of the Sea children’s chair Heather Crawford (also known for her clown persona, Capt’n Korki) emphasized the positives of the family experience enjoyed on East Beach – including the Children’s Pirate Parade, the Semiahmoo First Nation Salmon Barbecue, Cupcake’s Teddy Bear Picnic and the contributions of all the “entertainers, clowns, vendors and volunteers.”
She said she would “love to see the fireworks and Torchlight Parade come back in full next year” but noted that confining activities to East Beach this year lowered the festival’s insurance costs from some $8,000 to $3,500.
She also noted that the festival’s volunteer group of directors dwindled to seven this year.
“That’s a lot of hats to wear for such a small crew (…) there is a wealth of expertise in our peninsula and all we need is for you, our fellow neighbours to step up and contribute in whatever way you shine.”