White Rock Events Society president Michelle Pedersen listens as vice-president Brian Hagerman asks council in January for funding to boost the sea festival.

White Rock Events Society president Michelle Pedersen listens as vice-president Brian Hagerman asks council in January for funding to boost the sea festival.

White Rock sea fest organizers buoyed by city support

White Rock council has approved an extra $15,000 for the 2014 sea festival, and may boost funding further with a matching grant.

Response to an appeal for city funding to boost White Rock’s 2014 sea festival has buoyed the spirits of those working to rejuvenate the waterfront event.

White Rock council voted unanimously last week (with Coun. Larry Robinson absent) to contribute $15,000 towards the costs of hosting the weekend festival, which is to include a torchlight parade.

A matching grant to help the society raise another $50,000 was also suggested.

“The outcome is fantastic,” said Michelle Pedersen, president of the newly formed White Rock Events Society. “It was an incentive, so that’s what I appreciate the most about it.”

Pedersen and society vice-president Brian Hagerman appealed to council last month for $70,000 in funding.

The pair are among a group of individuals who have been meeting since last August to explore options for the 65th anniversary event. That effort followed challenges that led organizers of the 2013 festival to host a significantly scaled-back function – and others to doubt its future.

Of the $70,000 requested, Hagerman said $50,000 would be used to build a dedicated float for the city.

Leisure services director Eric Stepura, noting the milestone year, advised council Monday to approve $15,000 as a one-time additional contribution to seed money, but deny the float funds.

He reasoned that the city’s cash and in-kind support will likely equal at least $65,000, based on the estimated $62,700 that was contributed to the 2012 festival.

Given that figure, “we felt it (the $50,000) was quite excessive,” Stepura said.

In suggesting the city consider a matching grant, Mayor Wayne Baldwin acknowledged the role a dedicated float would play in encouraging other municipalities to participate in the White Rock festival.

“If you want other floats in your parade, you have to go in theirs,” he said. “A parade without a float becomes a procession.”

Baldwin said he would not advocate providing “a whole chunk” of funding, but that a matching grant may be possible once the city’s surplus is finalized.

Council members backed the suggestion to reconsider further funding at that time. Financial services director Sandra Kurylo said she is projecting a surplus “sufficient to cover $25,000, at least.”

Pedersen – describing the matching grant possibility as “fantastic” – told Peace Arch News the hope is to have a float ready to go by May, when parade season gets underway. The society is already working to fundraise, and sponsorship packages are going out, she added.

Society members are determined to both create an anniversary event to remember and lay the groundwork for the future.

“Create something for the long-term,” she said. “Ensure… we’ve left a footprint big enough to follow.”

Next up, the society is reaching out to the community through an information meeting March 19 at the Centre for Active Living, 14600 North Bluff Rd. Set for 7 p.m., Pedersen invites anyone interested in getting involved to turn out and share their ideas and enthusiasm.

For more information, visit www.whiterockseafestival.ca or email email@whiterockseafestival.ca