Pass the hat: Centrefest appealing for public support

Centrefest organizers must pull off some fundraising acrobatics if the summer street performers’ festival is to fly this year.

Centrefest organizers must pull off some fundraising acrobatics if the summer street performers’ festival is to fly this year.

Less grant money and fewer business sponsorships are leaving Centrefest’s director Janice Shimek appealing for public support.

“It’s a struggle every year to find enough sponsorship money,” said Shimek, but this year’s tighter economy has made things even more challenging.

Area residents can help ensure that Centrefest is held this summer by supporting two fundraising raffles — as well as the Mosaic of Hope campaign in Parkland Mall, where Centrefest is one of three non-profit beneficiaries (along with Loaves and Fishes and the Kiwanis Club’s Harmony Garden).

Shimek said members of the public can buy painted tile for $5 to make up a temporary mosaic at the mall. The three participating charities get to keep proceeds from each tile sold for their mosaics. As well, an extra contribution will be made by Parkland Mall, depending on the number of tiles sold by April 27, when all three mosaics will be revealed.

She hopes to raise $7,500 by selling all the tiles in Centrefest’s mosaic. “It’ll go a long way for us. … We were lucky we were chosen” for the campaign, Shimek added.

The festival brings international street performers to entertain crowds in Red Deer’s downtown. It has been going for 15 years with an annual budget of about $200,000 — half of which is made up of donations in kind.

But cash is also needed to cover honourariums and other performer-related expenses, needed street closures and public works costs, and Shimek’s part-time salary as the only paid organizer.

She said the amount of grant money for the annual festival declined last year when the Downtown Business Association stopped funding it, saying it’s no longer a new event. The City of Red Deer gave the festival a smaller fee-for-service grant this year — $20,000 instead of the $26,000 received in 2014, she added.

As well, a number of businesses have stated they can’t sponsor Centrefest in 2015. “People that I thought had come on board, have said, ‘I just can’t do it.’ What can you do?”

Shimek said 2014’s Centrefest ended with a small deficit that was covered with some reserve funds. “But we can’t afford to end in a deficit again.”

While the festival draws thousands of people to Red Deer’s downtown, a gate fee can’t be charged because it would be difficult to gate off all access to Ross Street, said Shimek.

She believes the only way to make this year’s festival possible is to raise $20,000 to $30,000 by the end of May, through sponsorships, donations and raffles. “Join us in sustaining a robust arts and culture scene in Red Deer. Centrefest needs your support,” said Shimek.

Tickets for the first raffle (available from Comforts the Sole and Housewarmings) offer a chance to win a first-prize bundle of $100 gift certificates from 25 Red Deer restaurants, and a second prize of a $1,000 “bucket of cheer,” filled with of liquor and spirits.

The second raffle will be announced on Centrefest’s website.

For more information, to become a sponsor or make a donation, call 403-872-3361.