By Joni MacFarlane
Crowsnest Pass Promoter
A brief and ultimately indecisive discussion took place last week on the fate and funding of Rum Runner Days festivities.
During budget discussions, administration recommended municipal funding for 2013 Rum Runner Days be reduced to $4,500 from $40,000. The recommendation was made to match annual funding levels given to other community organizations who put on events such as Bellecrest Days, Canada Day and Pumpkins in the Park, said Chief Administrative Officer Myron Thompson.
“Without a community events strategy in place or without external organizations coming forward to take some initiative, we feel that this funding reduction could be considered,” Thompson said.
Last year, council decided to put off the popular Thunder in the Valley fireworks show, citing safety and financial concerns.
A reduced Rum Runner Days weekend was held and the financial report released in November, showed that it cost taxpayers $44,000 plus a municipal contribution of $40,000.
On January 17, some council members said they needed to have a discussion on the issue when they had more time.
Mayor Bruce Decoux questioned how Rum Runner Days had become so heavily funded compared to other community events.
Marion Vanoni, director of finance and corporate services, told council she was involved in the event since 1981 when a committee of the Crowsnest Pass Chamber of Commerce organized it.
Eventually, she said, as the event grew, the Chamber asked for council’s support.
“At that point, our committee switched from being under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce to be more overlooked by the council, simply because of the type of event with the fireworks and the need to try and put more money into keeping people for the whole weekend,” said Vanoni. “As that evolved, more participation in kind came from the municipality funding as you see it now. We were considered to be more of a draw for outside people to come in, more economic, as opposed to Coleman and Bellevue which were more local community-knit events.”
Mayor Decoux agreed council would need more time to discuss funding levels but stressed that council did not cancel the fireworks display.
“There seems to be a misconception here. This council deferred Rum Runner fireworks for a year. That means for that year it was cancelled. It was deferred until another year,” said Mayor Decoux. “Due to circumstances, we no longer have the ability to put on the fireworks locally but there are many, many fireworks experts available. That does not preclude that Rum Runners’ group from raising money and hiring a group to do that. I hate to see that thing disappear forever. There’s nothing that says they cannot stage the whole thing again under the new bylaws, under the new safety precautions that are in place.”
Mayor Decoux went on to say that he had hoped to stage a Jamboree next summer in conjunction with Rum Runner Days, but “the exhibition group backed out until after the inspection that was instigated by the atepayers group.”
Councillor Saindon, who was Chair of the 2012 Rum Runner Days, said there had been no response from committee members to an email sent out on January 10.
“This is up to the public, this is a volunteer situation, this is not a council endeavour,” said Mayor Decoux. “If the public wishes to hold it, that’s fine. The rules and regulations and safety precautions are in place as is required by the province and it’s up to the Rum Runners [committee].”