The Fernie Chautauqua took over the downtown core this weekend, for three days of events, including musical performances, culture tours and the Fall Fair.
While only in its second year, the Chautauqua grew from humble roots. According to Ron Ulrich, director of the Fernie Museum, the event had nearly six times the attendees compared to 2015.
“We had 4,066 people attend. Last year’s attendance between the two – the Chautauqua we had during the day and the Fall Fair - just to give you a sense of it, we had about 706 people,” Ulrich told The Free Press.
Ulrich says he received positive feedback about the event, as people were excited to discover an event like this in Fernie.
“We were really pleasantly pleased to see how many tourists we had go through the buildings. We tracked who was coming through here and who was coming through there. We had tons of people from out of town, from all over, coming through, staying for the day and participating,” he said. “The response we had most from visitors was, ‘wow didn’t know this existed in Fernie’.”
For this event, the Fernie and District Historical Society partnered with WildSight to hold the second annual Feast and Fest and Fernie Fall Fair on the same weekend, making the event bigger. WildSight coordinator Holly Kimola says they were pleased with this year’s event.
“With the collaboration we simplified what we called the 'Fest' portion of the weekend in the Fernie Fall Fair. The weather far but cooperated for us, but as Fernie people do, we dressed for the weather and had a fantastic time taking in all the events,” she said. “The Feast and Fest at the EcoGarden was even more magical this year. The dinner was set up in such a way that it encouraged people to walk throughout the garden and chat with all the other feasters.”
According to Kimola, there were 110 dinner tickets sold for the Feast and Fest, and local chefs Barrie Elliott and Logan Gaege cooked for over two hours for the crowds. After dinner, was a live auction and a DJ set.
“It doesn't get more magical than dancing under the stars in a beautiful garden,” said Kimola.
The Fall Fair, which was held at Prentice Park on Sunday, featured local growers and animals. Kimola wants this to become a beloved event in Fernie.
“Fernie’s Fall Fair has all the room to grow. I want people to have the Fall Fair marked on their calendar every year and start planning their garden with the biggest and best contests in mind. I want more people showcasing their talents and collections,” she said. “I want kids and big kids alike to be excited about meeting some of the animals in the valley. Fernie has so many wonderful events, and the Fall Fair brings us back to the town’s roots.”
Ulrich says he hopes the Chautauqua event becomes a staple in Fernie’s September events and continues the celebration of Fernie’s heritage, culture and farm-to-table cuisine.
“We saw a lot of different opportunities to grow this, and we want to keep the event fresh too,” he said.