Tyler Osborne

Tyler Osborne

Sylvan Lake looking to get the public involved

Better co-ordinating winter weekend events will encourage local participation and draw visitors to Sylvan Lake.

Better co-ordinating winter weekend events will encourage local participation and draw visitors to Sylvan Lake.

“From the Christmas parade forward, we have to co-ordinate better and build (events) on each other,” said mayor Susan Samson.

“We have to do a few more combined things as opposed to stand-alone events. We need to connect these dots a lot better.”

This past weekend’s Pond Hockey Tournament tops a list of winter events designed to engage locals and attract visitors.

Others include the Santa Claus Parade and Breakfast with Santa, Winterfest on the Family Day weekend and its popular Polar Dip and the Foothills Speedskating Marathon Association’s races over two weekends, including a new 24-hour marathon charity fundraiser.

“The speedskating events were a unique cultural event, but I didn’t feel we got the public down there involved in that. It didn’t draw the crowds I had hoped.”

It surprised her that the Second Gear Club of Calgary’s car and motorcycle races were held the same weekend since the club didn’t advertise them.

“Internally they do their thing, but they don’t do it externally. Next year we’ll attempt to co-ordinate those events.”

Dwayne Stoesz, the newly installed Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce president, says his group wants to be involved.

“The chamber is always open to participating in anything that will help promote the town whether put on by the town or a local business or a community group.”

Samson hopes getting the word out about events will improve with the town’s new Web site, a new economic development officer starting Mar. 11, social media and traditional means such as the town’s program guide, newspapers and word of mouth.

Connecting with families through school newsletters is proving successful.

“We had two sold out sittings of Breakfast with Santa and the new Yuletide Festival last year raised $12,000 for our urgent care facility.”

Another option is making better use of sites developed for events such as the speedskating course, which the town helps develop through a $10,000 grant.

“Why can’t we do something with it and maintain it?” she asked, adding keeping Lakeshore Drive and Centennial Park paths snow free is popular with both residents and visitors.

“The top three things in our recent needs assessment said people were worried about not being active, too much stress and their finances. Just about everything we do is family oriented and they’re all at no cost.

“I like to think of ourselves as a winter community and we have to embrace that season.”

The fourth annual Pond Hockey Tournament drew 26 teams with clever names like the Hatrick Swayzes and Manchesthair. Players in the three-day town-sponsored event used boots, not skates, Saturday as above 0 C temperatures made ice soft before Sunday’s blizzard buffeted them with wind-driven snow.