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Children’s festival readies for 33rd season

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Saturday, May 24, 2014 06:00 am

TENT RAISING – The St. Albert Children's Festival is getting ready for next week. The Standard General tent in Millennium Park  was assembled Thursday morning with some help from the venue and site technicians.
TENT RAISING – The St. Albert Children's Festival is getting ready for next week. The Standard General tent in Millennium Park was assembled Thursday morning with some help from the venue and site technicians.
APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette

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The Northern Alberta International Children’s Festival hits its 33rd season and for the host City of St. Albert it’s a landmark 20th year.

At the very least, this multi-cultural festival is a ton of fun. And when it’s educational, inspirational and good for the economy, it’s a bonus.

The children’s festival captures the best of what this community puts forward by stimulating and engaging the senses. But mostly, it breathes life into the heart and soul of a city.

Returning Tuesday, May 27 by popular demand, the festival simply would not exist without a creative team packed with vision, expertise, commitment and an ace crew.

“What makes the festival successful is how it brings the community together. I’ve had lots of experience and what separates the successful and not so successful comes down to the support it receives. It amazes me how everybody is behind it – government, members of the community, businesses and volunteers of all generations have come together,” says Stephen Bourdeau, festival coordinator.

Hired in September 2013 to oversee the festival development, he is the man responsible for bringing in 79 independent structures: tents, trailers and trucks. And it’s a towering undertaking.

This weekend 35 tents will mushroom on site. The smallest is 10 feet by 10 feet. The largest, the Standard General tent in Millennium Park, measures 56 feet by 130 feet by 30 feet tall.

Bourdeau also takes charge of erecting stages, supplying bleachers, installing lights and sound, and making sure essential services – water, power, and waste disposal is fully functioning.

“We have to build it up from nothing.”

The festival is designed around a free flowing, treed loop that starts at St. Albert Place Plaza, meanders along the Sturgeon River banks to Lions Park and winds back through the curling rink and Millennium Park.

“One of the advantages of this festival is the natural setting where you have facilities so close together – the Arden, the 50+ Club, the curling rink – they’re all close together but in a natural setting. It has a great flow, almost like a walking tour.”

In total the site is 8.58 hectares or 21.21 acres. That’s about the size of 16 football fields.

“An interesting fact. A senior coordinator will walk between 12 to 15 kilometres each day of the festival. They measured this a couple of years ago.”

Power is a necessary service for site activities, vendors and lighting standards for security at night. While it’s impossible to know the exact amount of cabling running through the festival grounds, estimates run at four to six kilometres, Bourdeau said.

Supplementing power off the grid are three diesel generators. However, organizers are working with Fortis to try and lower the numbers.

“They (diesel generators) sound awful. They look awful and they release exhaust into the system.”

Maintaining a green feature while staying on budget is an important way the festival defines itself in the community.

Organizers are bringing in 26 port-a-potties, a dozen hand-washing stations and they’re spreading 40 extra garbage cans throughout the site.

“Which is why we have a green team. The festival has a very good reputation among festivals for having a clean, presentable site. It’s a very good active green team. They don’t just sit under a tree and text.”

On average the green team collects six 30-yard bins of garbage during the festival – that’s about the size of six African elephants.

The team also separates recyclable material from garbage to the tune of 15 six-yard containers about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.

With such a broad matrix of goings-on, Bourdeau has brought in a network of 80 radios supplemented by donated cells. Volunteers, operations staff, site teams and tech teams have access to the equipment using a variety of channels.

“You can always tell at a festival how important someone is by how many phones they have and how many tags they have hanging from their lanyard.”

For instance, Bourdeau will carry an I.D. tag, an emergency contact tag and two-or three radios. In addition he’ll be hauling an all-purpose back-pack filled with zip ties, a Swiss army knife, string, double-sided tape, duct tape, phone charger, spare battery, sunscreen, Sharpie pens and a notepad for jotting on-the-spot ideas.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve the experience. If you have any suggestions, go to the volunteer booth. We need input from our patrons and sponsors. Input is critical to make this event successful.”


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