The Biggest Fiddling & Jigging Championship North of 60 – a very popular annual event in Hay River – has been cancelled for this year by the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre.
Shari Caudron, executive director at Soaring Eagle, explained the cancellation is largely due to funding issues.
“This year because we’ve taken on some other challenges where our fundraising money has gone toward the youth, we just didn’t have the money in our coffers to be able to run the fiddling and jigging,” she said.
But that was just one of the funding concerns.
Soaring Eagle – like all 122 Friendship Centres across Canada – has not yet received its annual core funding from the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.
That core funding pays for the Soaring Eagle staff to be able to co-ordinate the Fiddling and Jigging Championship.
The core funding is normally received by April 1 of every year, but there has been a delay because the federal government is entering into a new five-year agreement with the Friendship Centres.
“We have received bridge funding, but not enough to cover off the wages that it takes to co-ordinate the event,” Caudron said, noting the Friendship Centres have been advised the core funding will arrive sometime in September.
The only confirmed funding that Soaring Eagle had for the championship was about $12,000 from the GNWT.
“So the executive made a decision that we would postpone it until next year and spend this winter fundraising to make sure we can host it again next year,” said Caudron. “It is one of our favourite events to do. We love it. Last year, we had over 500 people attend.”
The approximately $12,000 from the GNWT will remain with the government.
“We didn’t accept the funding,” said Caudron. “We turned it down.”
She noted it takes roughly $40,000-$50,000 to run the Biggest Fiddling & Jigging Championship North of 60 with the money going towards such things as wages, printing, advertising, prizes, rentals and sound systems.
In addition, Soaring Eagle was facing a shortage of volunteers for the event, although the funding problems were the main reason for the cancellation.
Caudron is confident the Biggest Fiddling & Jigging Championship North of 60 will return in 2018.
“Next year, we’ll do it for sure,” she said. “It will allow us enough time to raise the funding that we need for it.”
The three-day event, which is held on the Labour Day long weekend, attracts competitors and visitors from elsewhere in the NWT, along with B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Many of the competitors are attracted by the thousands of dollars in prize money.
Linda Duford, a well-known fiddler in Hay River, has been involved with the championship since the early 2000s, both as a judge and a contestant.
She said she is sad the championship is not happening this year, especially since she had been preparing several of her young fiddling students to perform at the event.
“I had everybody all pumped up and I had quite a few to enter, so of course I was a little sad,” she said. “But I’m not going to use the word disappointed, because I know that the people that are running it will come back again next year and do an even better job.”
She is “totally confident” the championship will return.
Duford said the championship is a great event for Hay River.
“It’s wonderful for the community,” she said. “It’s good for the businesses. It gets people out. I just love going to that event.”