Thoughts already turning to next year’s Winterfest

Eric McCarthy
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ALBERTON — Skills competitions at the local rinks and seniors’ activities at the Rodd Mill River Resort were among the most popular and best attended activities of the first ever Up-West Winterfest, which wrapped up on Sunday.

This year’s festival was a co-operative effort of the O’Leary, Tignish and Alberton municipalities and provincial parks west staff.

The three municipalities covered one-half of the festival costs with the other half provided by the Department of Tourism and Culture.

Winterfest replaced community winter carnivals normally held on different weeks in Alberton, Tignish and O’Leary.

Holland College’s Sport and Leisure Management classes in Alberton helped co-ordinate the schedule and run the events throughout the Jan. 14 to 20 festival.

The students admitted they have a greater appreciation of the hard work that goes into planning and staging community events as a result of their involvement wit Up-West Winterfest.

Up-West Winterfest was the biggest undertaking by his students so far, said instructor Jeff Ellsworth.

“It was a great learning experience for them,” he acknowledged.

Students will be involved later this winter in a Price is Right/Minute-to-Win-it fundraiser for the Summerside Western Capitals and in helping with the Royal Bank Cup tournament, and all of the students are involved with the committee planning the National Under 16 Girls Softball championship that will be held in O’Leary in August.

The first year students were actively involved in the planning prior to the Christmas break.

“Whenever they came back from Christmas break, it was a solid two weeks of planning, and then to pull the event off in the third week.” The second year students assisted in hosting the event.

“For some of them, it was a lot of work; a lot of time management on their part, because school didn’t stop while Winterfest was going on,” Ellsworth admitted. Depending on the size of the crowds at individual events and venues, the schedule or the rules had to get changed on the fly.

“I think it went well,” said student Jesse Shields in assessing the first-year festival.

Students will help evaluate the festival and will also evaluate each other’s roles in staging the week-long event.

Student Kim Andrews said they gained valuable experience in learning how to adjust the schedule.  While some events were more successful than others, Andrews suggested the students will be able to recommend adjustments to make events even more successful next year. 

A free hypnotist show and lots of outdoor activities were also on the schedule and helped bring the crowds out.

“A lot of people were helpful and encouraging,” said Colten Donahue who indicated participants told them they were doing a good job. He noted the Mill River Resort was packed during activities on Saturday and said good crowds were in attendance Friday and Sunday as well.



Organizations: Holland College, Department of Tourism and Culture, Leisure Management Summerside Western Capitals National Under 16 Girls Softball Mill River Resort

Geographic location: O’Leary, Alberton

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