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Summer festival gets boost from city

SITC chair bemoans lack of chamber support

By: Grant Burr

Posted: 04/10/2019 10:30 AM

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Summer in the City festival chair Graham Pollock told Steinbach city council he was prepping to pound the table for more funding on Tuesday night, but they pre-empted his request.

Though city council has avoided providing funds to many community organizations in recent years, it has provided $50,000 annually to the festival since its inception.

Now entering its 11th year, Pollock said he welcomed news last week that council is boosting the city’s support further to $65,000 annually.

Pollock said an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 people took in last year’s event.

The festival tabulated $321,000 in expenses and $306,000 in revenue, he noted. It also received another $116,000 in gift-in-kind donations.

While the city will be providing an additional $15,000, the festival is losing out on a federal grant of the same amount.

In prior years, the federal grant application process has been a responsibility of the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce, which Pollock noted has reduced its involvement over the past three years. This year, he lamented, the chamber has said it will not assist with the festival at all, citing lack of resources. Now the organization of street vendors, food vendors and Cultures in the City stage performers have all become the responsibility for festival organizers to coordinate. He said poor communication with the chamber and a revised application process were to blame for the federal grant deadline being missed.

"This is the biggest festival in this area. For our chamber of commerce not to have anything to do with the festival that brings 30,000 people to this town is beyond me," said Pollock, noting the festival enjoys strong involvement from other groups.

"For anybody to suggest it doesn't have an economic spinoff, I think they are mistaken."

Mayor Earl Funk agreed with Pollock’s assessment of the festival’s economic benefits. He and Councillor Michael Zwaagstra both said they were surprised to hear that the chamber was removing itself from the event.

The mayor also wondered if the festival could benefit from more of a Christian focus, suggesting that classic rock musical acts be replaced by contemporary Christian or gospel music.

Ticket revenues for concerts totalled about $65,000 last year, while the cost of booking headliners is annually around $100,000.

Still, Pollock said that concert attendance was higher at those ticketed shows than what was observed at free concert events that were part of Sunday’s Worship in the City lineup, which is taking a one-year hiatus this year. He suggested the festival does however have some new plans in store for this year’s festival, which will aim to appeal to larger demographics.

"We’re doing something a little different this year that is going to allow us a little more leeway getting a really good name on the one night and something different the next night."

Pollock also stressed the need for further sponsorship and more volunteers, both key parts of the festival’s success.

Volunteer applications are available at This year’s festival will run from June 14-16.

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