"What to do? What to say?": two Thendarier lines that got cut in our production of Les Mis, two lines that are top of mind with the news that went public today about the "Demise of Events Wood Buffalo".
What do do? What can I possibly say?
A little history. I came up with the idea for Events Wood Buffalo. I saw what was happening with community events that were being dropped by nonprofits and being picked up by the municipality. As a taxpayer, I saw how much money was being spent to keep things afloat. At the time, the Fort McMurray interPLAY Society was as strong as it ever had been and we were ready to help. A proposal was put forward, it was supported by the RMWB, and Events Wood Buffalo was born.
Many memories followed at events like interPLAY, WinterPLAY, SummersEnd, Canada Rocks, Santa Claus Parade, and the Big Spirit Festival. Artists like KISS, Reba McEntire, Stompin' Tom, The Road Hammers, Barenaked Ladies, The Lost Fingers, Kathleen Edwards, Dan Mangan, Simple Plan, Chris Visser, and many more entertained us under the star-filled northern sky and in the pouring rain. Thousands of children shared joy and laughter with their families and many good friends shared great times together. The arts were celebrated, encouraged, supported and presented.
There is a lot to celebrate and remember.
There is a lot to learn and a lot to build on.
This is not the time to point fingers or ascribe blame for what is an unquestionably awful situation. My deepest respect and gratitude goes to Greg Butters who stepped into the breech when nobody else wanted to, taking the reins as President of the organization when I resigned after being elected to council in 2010. He could have thrown in the towel a long time ago, but against the best interests of his own wellbeing, he soldiered on and tried to shepherd EWB through a tumultuous storm. He wasn't alone. The Board and staff spent many long hours trying to navigate to calmer waters.
Sometimes, community leadership isn't wrapped up in pretty white bows; sometimes it is hard as hell, and sadly, sometimes it is thankless and soul-sucking. Please don't forget that behind the veil of this sad story are human beings who have served this community with great passion and commitment for many years. They did not want this to happen. Nobody did.
What to do?
We need to galvanize the great minds, passionate individuals, and eager organizations who are interested in crafting a sustainable and remarkable path forward for special events, festivals and arts celebrations. There is no doubt in my mind that we can leverage the experience that Events Wood Buffalo has been through for the betterment of our community and region. We all know now that a vacuum exists. It is time to organically respond and fill it.
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.-Winston Churchill