Organizers from Whistler’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender ski week, WinterPride will have to make do without the headlining performer they were hoping for, after the municipality denied their request Tuesday (Dec. 18) for programming funding.
WinterPride, which will celebrate its 21st year from Feb. 3 to 10, was asked by the municipality’s Festival, Events and Animation (FE&A) Oversight Committee in October to submit a proposal for Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funds to augment its existing programming.
“We were looking at bringing in a headline entertainer to really anchor our mid-week programming,” said WinterPride’s executive director Dean Nelson, who requested $30,000 to $100,000 from FE&A to secure an “A-list” performer. “We were identified as one of the five signature festivals for Whistler and it would have been great to have seen some funding from the municipality as some type of gesture,” he added.
Augmentation funding is meant for events that will enhance the visitor experience and demonstrate a significant economic benefit to the resort through an increase in room nights. WinterPride’s spot on the calendar is one of the main reasons it was not granted augmentation funding, according to an email from RMOW spokesperson Michele Comeau.
“The 2013 calendar has aligned in such a manner that the dates for WinterPride 2013 are not during a period of need in the resort. The current expectation is that occupancy levels during the first half February will be strong due to a combination of factors in addition to great snow conditions,” read an email from Comeau.
Chinese New Year, the Family Day holiday and the Luge World Championships all take place in early February and are expected to draw a significant number of visitors to the resort.
“When gay ski week began 21 years ago, this was a very soft week and now it’s a very popular week and I’d like to think that our festival has a lot to do with the high-demand of this week,” said Nelson, who added the RMOW has approached him about changing the dates of the event in future years, a move he said he’s willing to consider.
There is a silver lining for WinterPride organizers, however, after the RMOW announced it would be one of 10 events selected for an economic impact assessment in 2013. The FE&A program, in conjunction with Tourism Whistler, will work with the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance to carry out the study. The Ottawa-based organization has conducted similar studies on Whistler events in the past.
“The study should have been done long ago but it’s encouraging that it’s actually going to happen,” said Nelson.
In July, the RMOW set aside $1.2 million RMI reserve funds to enable advanced planning for 2013’s FE&A program. In years past, events scheduled for the early part of the year, like WinterPride, have been ineligible for RMI monies because the province typically doesn’t announce their funding levels until the spring.
Last Tuesday (Dec. 11), the municipality released the list of 14 past event producers who had been invited to request a piece of the $2.8-million FE&A budget for next year. A Dec. 13 article in The Question incorrectly quoted Comeau as saying that an announcement regarding funding for WinterPride and the World Ski and Snowboard Festival was expected this week. So far, WinterPride, the earliest major event on the 2013 calendar, is the only one to hear back from municipal staff about its funding proposal.
No date has been set for the announcement of the overall FE&A program for 2013, including word on augmentation funding for existing events.
Meanwhile at its meeting on Tuesday, council declared officially declared Feb. 3 to 10 to be Pride Week for the community.