The Caribbean Festival organizers plan a 2022 event, but will not benefit from a recovery grant. (The News files)

The Caribbean Festival organizers plan a 2022 event, but will not benefit from a recovery grant. (The News files)

Maple Ridge festivals and events missed out on COVID recovery grants

Neighbouring communities tapped into $30 million from province

The province announced grants to help B.C.’s fairs, festivals and events recover from COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions, but Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows organizations have been largely left out.

The Music Talks Music Festival and Job Exhibition is listed as a Maple Ridge event that received $250,000. It is a new event that will feature live performances at both The Act and a Vancouver venue. It is being organized by Maple Ridge-based Starlight Music, an event company that has been in Maple Ridge since 2016.

A spokesperson said they will offer 100 artists from across B.C. an opportunity to perform live, in addition to offering an industry job exhibition. She noted the music industry was among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

The Caribbean Festival and Countryfest are two major summer local summer festivals that would have been eligible for funding, but whose organizers didn’t know the money was available.

“Oh my goodness – I could have some pretty big names here,” said Countryfest organizer Lorraine Bates, when asked about the potential for a $250,000 grant. Countryfest had been celebrated since 1901, until the pandemic.

Bates said the festival will be back this year if possible, but added “It’s going to be a struggle.”

READ ALSO: Free weekend of in-person concerts at Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Country Fest

Deddy Geese, organizer of the Caribbean Festival, said he too plans to bring his event back this summer, and even $50,000 or $100,000 – amounts not uncommon in neighbouring cities – would have been a huge help.

“I could use it to do a lot bigger festival, having sat out for two years now,” he said.

READ ALSO: Organizer not giving up on Caribbean Festival 2021

That festival’s 20th anniversary celebration was interrupted by the pandemic.

The provincial funding was made available to cover up to 20 per cent of an event’s budget, to a maximum of $250,000.

A total of $30 million has been given to 681 events around B.C. In neighbouring Langley, there have been 20 grants. Examples include a Fort Langley Jazz festival getting $187,509; the Aldergrove Fair $16,400; Ribfest $50,000; the Flippers swim meet $4,150; and the Brentwood Invitational skateboarding event the maximum available $250,000.

In Abbotsford, the Maan Farms corn maze received $173,400; the Abbotsford International Airshow $250,000; Agrifair $99,000; and the Taste of Abby Fall Food Festival $13,500 – just a few examples of the city’s 11 grants.

Maple Ridge also received $24,100 for Glow Maple Ridge, which is currently underway, but has not drawn the crowds of other city events. Pitt Meadows Day received $16,600, and it is one of the city’s signature events.

The News asked the NDP government and MLAs Lisa Beare and Bob D’Eith why so little money was distributed locally. Lisa Pilling of the BC Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport said all applications put forward from Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows received funding.

Maple Ridge City Coun. Chelsa Meadus said she was disappointed at the low levels of funding for her city’s organizations.

“I can say in my past experience when I worked for non-profits, The Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows Hospice Society or Adopt-A-Block for example, our local MLAs office would reach out to give us a heads up regarding potential funding opportunities they felt fit within our scope. With this support we were successful more times than we weren’t,” said Meadus.

“Non-profits are often so focused on delivering the services they provide it’s hard to be on top of every funding opportunity if other levels of government are not actively advocating for them as well. Hopefully that is still the process today.”

Cheryl Ashlie, a former city councillor and Liberal Candidate in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, was more pointed in her criticism.

“This is very reflective of how these MLAs operate. They bring nothing back to our community, and take credit for things that are already happening,” said Ashlie.

“It is another example of our MLAs providing sound bites for the public, but not actually doing the work. They had an obligation to get this information in front of festival organizers, so that Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows had a running list of recipients like that of other communities,” said Ashlie.

She called the allocation for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows “shameful.”

“There are so many annual events taking place in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows that are desperate for funding, such as Countryfest, Pitt Meadows Day, Rivers Day, Bard on the Bandstand, PM Regional Airport Day, Music on the Wharf… I could go on and on. You can’t tell me these organizations wouldn’t have wanted funding. What a disappointment.”

She is a past president of the Alouette River Management Society, and said that group would have certainly benefited from government funding for its community engagement and education events.

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Arts and Entertainmentmaple ridgePitt MeadowsProvincial Government