The Wood Buffalo Frolics will make a return during the April 1 to 3 weekend as new organizers took over the annual Fort Smith festival this week.
Team leader Margaret McKay said she has a commitment from the Town of Fort Smith to provide $5,000, in addition to some help from First Nations communities in the region.
“This year we will be going off with fireworks and everything,” McKay said. “The Mad Trappers Ball, a huge bingo, will take place on Saturday.”
The Mad Trappers event will feature George Kurszewski and other local musicians at the Roaring Rapids Hall. Fireworks on Sunday will close out the weekend.
“It will be huge for us here in the South Slave,” McKay said. “Everybody’s happy.”
As per usual, there’s expected to be a half-day civic holiday on the Friday afternoon leading into the weekend.
Typically, the Wood Buffalo Frolics happens during the second or third weekend of March.
McKay said because of other events taking place in Fort Smith in the coming weeks, such as a sliding party and a dog-mushing race, the event was pushed back to the April 1 weekend.
For the last two years, the spring festival has not taken place because of Covid-19 gathering restrictions.
McKay said she has support from a team of volunteer that includes Melvin Wanderingspirit, who will be helping with the Northern Games events, as well as Paul and Jenny Cumming.
Organizers will have more details in the coming days as event preparations come together, however McKay said Frolics is seeking additional financial support from the GNWT Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment as well as private businesses.
Patti Haaima, who ran the festival for the last five years, told the CBC on March 1 that she was not going to be involved this year and therefore the event was cancelled.
She found out later the same day that McKay would be taking over the organizing effort.
Haaima welcomed McKay taking on the initiative but added that the last two years have been hard on former organizers and the community.
“When Covid hit, we had it all organized, the whole bit, and then we got shut right down,” she said. “We lost a heck of a lot of money and it was awful.”
Few people seemed to care about the festival going ahead in 2021, Haaima stated.
“We didn’t even bother because there were so many restrictions and who’s going to donate something when everybody’s in a financial hardship? They’re still in financial hardship,” she said.
She couldn’t get involved this year because of work commitments with a new job and she added that the people who have helped her in the past are no longer in town.
Mayor Fred Daniels said the $5,000 had already been set aside for the purpose of Wood Buffalo Frolics and the community needs a festival to lift community spirit.
“I believe it can be done and the people in the community, not only our community but other communities, need this,” Daniels said. “People have been locked up for the last two years here and stuff and it hasn’t been easy.
“Covid’s been hard on a lot of people.”