The Griz himself. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Griz funds in the air

The city has decided to wait for more clarity on the public health orders before allocating additional funding

The City of Fernie has again deferred any decision on granting additional funding to the Fernie Chamber of Commerce to operate Griz Days 2021.

The decision on funding for Griz Days 2021 has now been deferred across four council meetings since July.

$5,000 has already been allocated to the chamber from the Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) , and traditionally the city chips in $10,000 of its taxpayer funds to back the popular festival, but this year city councillors opted to hold on to the $10,000 and indicated they would be willing to support the chamber receiving the $15,000 in full through the RMI.

READ MORE: City declines taxpayer funding, commits RMI funding to Griz Days

The chamber had been asked to come back to the city with the increased request in mid-November, but a month later at the Dec. 14 council meeting city staff recommended not allocating the funds.

Staff noted that while the members of the Tourism Master Plan Champions Group – which oversees Fernie’s tourism master plan – supported the $15,000 funding from the RMI for Griz Days, “given current restrictions and Provincial Health Orders in place, staff are not comfortable recommending Council approve the increase in funding for this event at this time.”

Instead they recommended they wait until the city would have “clarity on the duration and nature of restrictions on travel, events and gathering size” before any decision on additional funding was made.

Instead, city staff will continue to monitor the situation in regards to the pandemic and the public health orders, and will only bring forward a recommendation on additional funding “at such a time as Provincial Health Orders are amended or eased in a manner where the City is able to confirm the event will positively impact tourism visitation and visitor-spend while supporting Provincial Health Orders.”

Executive director of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce Brad Parsell has previously said that Griz Days normally costs between $50,000-$60,000, but due to the pandemic it would be leaner in 2021 given the business community was less able to provide the lion’s share of funding, as it traditionally does.

Following the Dec. 14 decision, Parsell confirmed to The Free Press that Griz Days 2021 would be going ahead with or without the $10,000 in additional RMI funding through the City of Fernie as the chamber had proven itself capable of running COVID-safe events throughout the pandemic. The chamber will still receive $5,000 in RMI funding as originally agreed.

Griz Days 2021 will be primarily virtual, with many popular events that draw crowds nixed in favor of more passive events, online celebrations and a fireworks show.

The Regional District of East Kootenay has committed its traditional share of funding to the festival ($4,000 for 2021), and corporate sponsor Teck is following through with its contribution.

READ MORE: Griz Days to go ahead in 2021, will ‘look different’: Chamber
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