A series of free cultural workshops filled almost immediately after nearly being cancelled.
“I emailed my funding people and said I’m going to have to give the money back, I can’t do it,” said Lise Saumur, director of community services for the town.
She had received Canada 150 funding to host some cultural workshops in the town, an idea that was the brainchild of Saumur and former tourism manager Vicky Gregoire-Tremblay. But without having a coordinator to run the program, Saumur thought it wouldn’t work out.
That’s when she remembered Jodi Day-McLeod coming to council with her Inuvik Community Events Society group, which was looking to create a volunteer organization to run some of the events that have gone quiet in the last few years in town.
“She just went with it,” said Saumur about Day-McLeod when propositioned with the idea to help run the series of workshops. “She got all the workshops lined up, talked to all the people, did all the background legwork and then met with me and said, ‘I just need you to okay this, this, this.’”
Eleven different workshops are taking place over this month and next, from African drumming and dancing to East India henna, Inuit beading and Philippine cuisine. Nearly all of them filled up immediately.
“Inuvik has so many different cultures and people from different places here,” said Saumur. “We thought that would be really cool to learn about other people because we’ve got them all here, and then to cap that off with a heritage festival.”
That festival is planned for two weeks after the sunrise festival in the new year. Saumur said it will be a family event over a weekend, showcasing activities from different cultures and countries.
Saumur hopes the relationship with the events society can continue.
“Jodi and her group is a godsend for me,” she said. “I can’t dole her enough praise for everything she’s done in the background.”
She hopes to see if making the workshops a paid experience means they could be held more regularly, if the demand is there.
Day-McLeod said the relationship with the town works out for her group, which is currently fundraising for its priority event of reviving the New Year’s dance.
“We’re definitely interested in working with the town,” she said.
The society has raised just over half of the money it needs to hold the dance. The best-case scenario for the dance will cost about $10,000, but the group is confident it can run a scaled-down version if it can’t meet that fundraising goal.
“We’re very confident that we’re going to run it with everything offered – jigging prizes, door prizes, a live band and the feast,” said Day-McLeod.
The push is on now to recruit more volunteers to help at the event.