Chris Sharpe, marketing and communications officer for the Town of Inuvik, had put in a 14-hour day running around and making sure everything for his first sunrise festival was going according to plan Saturday, Jan. 6.
Along with tourism assistant Heather Moses, he had brought on some new features this year, most notably a video ice dance party Saturday night. Sharpe admitted that before the event he wasn’t sure how many people were going to show up.
“It was pretty much at the end of the DJ show and it was 2 a.m. and we were supposed to shut down, and everyone was tapping the tables saying more, more, encore, encore,” remembers Sharpe, who said the DJ party sold more than 100 tickets in the end.
“It had been a really long day, but that was the highlight, to see they were satisfied.”
With sponsor and in-kind support, this year’s sunrise festival doubled the budget of last year’s.
Sharpe also had to contend with a controversy before the event about how the town was finding contracts for some of its side projects, including the DJ party and a documentary of the festival. The town faced criticism that Northern professionals weren’t being prioritized over southern contractors.
Tony Devlin, owner of Black Fly Studios, had brought some of those questions to a planning meeting for the festival in November. After the controversy, he said the town has been very responsive to questions surrounding the contracts.
“They reached out to my company and we worked together on a video/photo package to support marketing for the sunrise festival,” stated Devlin in an e-mail.
“I think they now recognize that Inuvik has a growing community of creative professionals and that most media and creative services they require can be sourced locally, and I look forward to opportunities to bid on media contracts going forward.”
He went on to say that the region has tremendous homegrown talent in creative and formal writing, graphic design, photography, filmmaking, videography, animation, artwork, layout, and event management.
“Inuvik has television series on national broadcasters, photographs in international publications and movies winning international awards,” stated Devlin. “We have a strong media community and are lucky enough to have a pool of talented youth who are starting formal education and careers in media. We have it all here in Inuvik, and who best to tell our stories?”
Sharpe said he was happy with the attendance level of the weekend’s events, saying he wanted to target every demographic in town, which included young adults for the DJ party.
Seeing everyone dancing and jigging on the opening night was inspiring, he said.
“It was so hot they had to open the door,” said Sharpe. “For my first time, it was just phenomenal.”
Sharpe said the DJ party looked like it could have been in Toronto or Las Vegas. He was thankful for the team that put the event together.
“It’s a mega event,” said Sharpe. “It’s a lot of things happening at the same time. If Heather (Moses) wasn’t there and a lot of the rec staff and the volunteers, I don’t think we would have been able to pull it together.”