The festival was created to celebrate and bring awareness to bears, who call nearby Wells Gray Provencial Park home. (File photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

The festival was created to celebrate and bring awareness to bears, who call nearby Wells Gray Provencial Park home. (File photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Bear Festival organizers ask council for more arena time

The organizers of Bear Festival, Larissa Hadley and Kym Gallagher, took the floor during Clearwater’s Jan. 21 regular council meeting for a grant-in-aid request. The festival is set for the second weekend in August.

“What we’re requesting is the use of the arena for three days. At the present time, we have the approval of use of the arena for the dance on Saturday night. However, we require space for things were going to have like the Bear Aware program. There’s meant to be different programs going on that need to be inside, especially if we have to happen to catch a weekend that it’s raining,” said Gallagher. There will also be displays.

The four-day festival is sponsored by the North Thompson Business Connection Society and will include a Children’s Art Festival, Music in the Park, Indigenous Participation, Open Door Bear Crawl, and more.

It is named the Bear Festival due to the bears that call Wells Gray Provincial Park home. The event will be used to celebrate and bring awareness to the bears, through educational booths, nature walks and more.

Gallagher went to say that she heard that the district would have to give the organizers a $3,000 grant. Their proposal is that since they know a staff member(s) will have to be at the arena, which would cost the district money, the organizers would be willing to offset the wages of the staff member for use of the arena without paying $1,100 a day.

She also mentioned that festivals are becoming the fastest growing form of tourism and becoming popular in rural communities. They are also means of revitalizing communities.

She further said that it could be a popular event for a ‘staycation.’

“It doesn’t mean people are going to travel clear across the world to attend our Bear Festival but people from local areas do attend. The Garlic Festival in 100 Mile is very successful because a lot of people go to it and it brings a lot of economic value to 100 Mile,” continued Gallagher, also mentioning a festival in Barriere. “We have different things going on in small towns and it brings a lot of people there and it also brings people back. They might go out out one afternoon and they ‘let’s do this, lets come back here.’”

Gallagher mentioned a few other benefits, such as increased community spirit, international recognition, an increase of visitor length and increasing tourism economic value to name a few.

According to Gallagher, the organizers already have a lot of things in place to move forward and would like council to consider their proposal for the use of the arena.

Coun. Shelly Simms asked about the rationale for the timing of August. Gallagher said it was because it was the time people are most likely travelling with kids, whereas in May parents are unlikely to pull children out of school. There is also, Gallagher said, so much more stuff going on in August already that could pull people into Clearwater, and the Bear Festival can prolong their stay.

“Let’s get people here. We’re putting up another motel, we’ve got campgrounds that are being developed, we got restaurants that are being proposed. Let’s get these people here. I know it’s ambitious but if we don’t start small we’ll never get any bigger,” Gallagher concluded.