Winter abandoned Up West Winterfest

Eric McCarthy
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Attendance good at some events

ALBERTON -- Community-based events, such as trivia and some of the Amazing Rallies, were hits during the second annual Up West Winterfest, Mitchell Rennie assessed Thursday.

Rennie is the executive director of the North Cape Coastal Drive Tourism Initiative. His organization took the lead role in planning this year’s festival.

Despite winter abandoning the festival partway through the second day of the 10-day festival and only returning on the closing day, Rennie felt many of the events went over well.

The Winter Feast, held at the Rodd Mill River Resort on January 10 was a hit and the Winter Blast on January 18 was popular with those who attended.

Festival organizers were hoping for 300 to 400 participants for Winter Blast, an outdoor family concert, but settled for 175 to 180.

“Everybody who was there enjoyed themselves. I heard a lot of positive reviews,” Rennie said.  

The nine days of above zero weather, though, did play havoc with skiing, sliding and skating activities at the Outdoor Fun Centre on the grounds of the Mill River Provincial Park and resort complex. The longest drive golf event drew a good crowd as did the first ever Up West Winterfest curling bonspiel. Rennie noted the two curling rinks teamed up to host the bonspiel in two divisions. There were 14 teams in the regular curling division and 12 in the two-person stick curling division.  He said organizers are intent on growing the event next year.

This year’s festival received a $25,000 infusion from the PEI2014 Fund as well as $1,500 each form the municipalities of O’Leary, Alberton and Tignish. He is hopeful provincial funding will be available again next year, although he doubts it will be at the same level.

This year’s festival was held early, to serve as a community kick-off to 2014 celebrations. He suspects it would move farther away from Christmas in 2015.

Organizers, he said, were able to put some festival proceeds away for next year and have a marketing template in place to get the ball rolling.  He suggested marketing for next year’s Winterfest would get started earlier.

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