Hay Days Festival in Hay River gets good funding support

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During Hay Days and leading up to it, there is a bit of an economic boon in Hay River from the significant amount of money involved in presenting the festival each summer.

“The budget right now that we have for expenses is $150,000,” said Lee Cawson, the treasurer of the Rotary Club of Hay River Sunrise, which presents the festival. “That’s everything from the fees for the artists to play to travel, accommodation, supplies and marketing. It’s gone up every year slightly, not a whole bunch. We’ve kept it pretty much the same. But that’s the entire budget for everything.”

Some of the $150,000 is through in-kind contributions, which could be goods or services instead of actual money.

Lee Cawson is the treasurer of the Rotary Club of Hay River Sunrise, which presents the Hay Days Music, Arts and Culture Festival.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

For example, the Town of Hay River provides the beach site rental, which costs about $1,500, as an in-kind donation.

Funding support for the festival comes from a variety of sources.

This year, the festival received about $32,000 from Heritage Canada; about $25,000 from the territorial Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment; about $10,000 from the NWT Arts Council’s Support for Northern Performers (which helps cover the fees of NWT-based artists); and $10,000 of funding and in-kind contributions from the Town of Hay River.

The festival also is supported by the GNWT’s Arts Organizations Operating Funding. This year, the festival has applied for $25,000.

Cawson said the funding support from government departments and agencies has been very good, and has even increased a bit from last year.

“I think that shows that they’re pretty supportive of the whole festival, as well,” he said.

Cawson also noted that most of the money is spent in Hay River on things like rentals, facilities, fencing, tents, supplies, marketing and more.

Aside from government support, Cawson pointed out that the festival receives backing from the business community.

Hay Days in 2018
Elijah Bekk, singer-songwriter from Faro, Yukon
NNSL file photo

“Corporate sponsorships are another big thing,” he said. “We’re over $10,000 in corporate sponsorships now. Well over when you include some in-kind.”

For example, Aurora Ford – where Cawson is the vice-president of the Aurora Group – provides some vehicle rentals, while the Ptarmigan Inn offers some discounts on rooms.

“We’ve gotten good response from the corporate sponsors,” Cawson said.

And the corporate support has remained solid since the Rotary Club began running the festival in 2017.

“Everybody who’s been in it is still in it,” said Cawson. “We haven’t lost any sponsors, but we’ve gained a few over the last couple of years.”

Last year, Hay Days brought an estimated 100-150 people into Hay River from surrounding communities, Yellowknife and even some from High Level, Alta.

Hay Days also makes a profit that the Rotary Club uses for various projects in the community, such as ordering new bleachers for the sports field at Diamond Jenness Secondary School.

In 2017, the Rotary Club cleared up a $5,000 debt left over from previous organizers and still made a profit of several thousand dollars.

“The first year was probably our most expensive because we had to make all the signs,” Cawson explained. “We’ve been able to reuse some of the materials year over year, so the expenses got a little bit less and I think we probably got a little bit better at running the festival. So we ended up with probably a profit of somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000 last year.”

This year’s profit is expected to be in the same range.