Gaming cuts threaten festival

Funds earmarked for this year’s Transformations on the Shore carving competition – which began Wednesday – may not come through, organizers say

Funds earmarked for this year’s Transformations on the Shore  carving competition – which began Wednesday – may not come through, organizers say.

And the loss could impact the event in future years.

The popular chain saw competition, which attracts roughly 30 carvers worldwide each year and takes place over the Canada Day weekend in Frank James Park, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this week.

But Mike Wilson, president of the Shoreline Arts Society which organizes the event, says complications with grant funding have made it difficult to celebrate.

The provincial government recently denied the Shoreline Arts Society the balance of its three-year grant. The non-profit organization has already received $33,000 over the past two years, but Wilson has been told the government will not be distributing the remaining balance of $3,667.

“Basically they indicated that they changed their funding priorities as of March 2010 and we don’t meet them,” says Wilson. “They also denied us because they figured we’re not a festival of broad community interest, appealing to all age groups.”

The society already has an application pending for funding in 2012 but Wilson is concerned that may not be approved either, potentially impacting future competitions.

He figures there will still be wood carving in the park but “maybe not the same way as the society has been doing it.”

The purpose of the event is to promote local artisans in wood carving and attract tourists to the area. And the event is provided to the community free of charge.

“There are no admission fees and we raise our own money and hold raffles to cover prize money,” says Wilson. “We don’t seek donations from tourists, we just want to help increase awareness of Campbell River.”

He says he believes the rest of the grant was unfairly turned down, simply because of the conversion of the Bingo Affiliation Grant to Community Gaming Grant last year.

Wilson says background information provided to him by the government “indicates that those organizations with a multi-year agreement will receive the full amount of their grant.”

He said the organization is reasonably confident it can challenge the province’s ruling.

“We are not in contravention of any of the conditions and are merely a victim of a unilateral change in Gaming’s policy,” says Wilson.

The society will be appealing the decision late this week, backed with a letter of support from the city which has been a big supporter of the wood carving event.

Wilson says the timing of the decision is unfortunate.

“We planned on using those funds for this year’s event,” he says. “Of course it couldn’t have come at a worse time.”

He added the society is able to handle this year’s competition but it may have to be more careful in its spending.

Including cash and in-kind donations Wilson says the event costs roughly $70,000 each year.

Major expenses come from having to provide insurance and on-site security.

“We’re still carrying on with the event and we’re still pretty upbeat,” says Wilson. “We’re quite proud of the event.”