WinterPRIDE needs to know funding fate earlier 

Organizer meets with mayor, Mike Furey over insensitive comments

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If he is to get the biggest bang for his Whistler bucks, WinterPRIDE organizer Dean Nelson needs to know if he's getting municipal funding by the end of summer.

"Otherwise it's almost a waste of money," he said.

"It's not fair to the festival and it's not fair to our customers."

He put his end-of-September deadline request to Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and municipal administrator Mike Furey in a meeting at the mayor's office last week. The meeting was called in part to discuss the future of WinterPRIDE in light of what the mayor called "regrettable" comments made in closed-door discussions around augmentation funding for the resort's annual gay festival this year.

The handwritten comments, which revealed concern at the Festivals, Events & Animation (FE&A) Working Group level over WinterPRIDE falling at the same time period as the Family Day long weekend, only came to light through a Freedom of Information request.

"We're moving forward," said Nelson simply of the meeting with the mayor and administrator and the explanation given that the insensitive comments were not in any way related to the decision not to give the 2013 WinterPRIDE festival money.

When asked if he was satisfied with the explanation Nelson said: "It's too early to tell if I can make that comment... We'll see what happens over the course of the next couple of weeks."

Overall, he said, the meeting was good.

Wilhelm-Morden echoed that sentiment. "It was a very good meeting."

Nelson also has hard numbers now to back up claims that WinterPRIDE is a significant economic driver in the resort every year.

The recent results of the Economic Impact Assessment — one of ten assessments commissioned by the RMOW this year — shows the festival spins off $9 million of economic activity in the province, more than half of that ($4.8 million) taking place in Whistler.

Last year more than a dozen third-party festival organizers were invited to submit proposals for augmentation investments through the municipality's festivals, events and animation program.

More than $1.7 million was requested in augmentation funding and $922,000 was doled out to nine different festivals.

WinterPRIDE was not one of them.

The funding decisions were made public in February; WinterPRIDE, which is traditionally held on the first week of February, learned its fate earlier in mid-December. That was still too late.

"Last year it really put us behind the eight ball," Nelson said of the dangling promise that there could be an extra $100,000 on the table — or not.

Wilhelm-Morden said it's "completely understandable" of the need to make funding decisions in a timely manner for event organizers.

"That message was made very clear," she said of Nelson's request at the meeting.

In response to questions about the 2014 augmentation funding process, the municipal communications department emailed:

"The process and timing for the 2014 FE&A program is not yet confirmed. This will be discussed by the FE&A Oversight Committee at an upcoming meeting.

"The FE&A Oversight Committee is sensitive to the needs of events that occur in the early part of the year and works to plan accordingly."

Nelson will be submitting a proposal for augmentation funding again with an aim to boost festival attendance during the mid-week period of the festival. The dates for the festival have also been moved up by one week. WinterPRIDE will not fall at the same time as the Family Day long weekend in 2014.

Said Nelson, "They welcomed us to apply for funding again and stressed that there won't be any guarantees."



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