St. Albert’s second annual river valley picnic had beautiful sunny weather last Sunday but compared to last year there weren’t a lot of people around to enjoy it.
This year only about 2,000 people packed up their lunches and headed down to the river valley, a sharp drop from the more than 10,000 who attended in 2011.
Attendance suffered last weekend because not enough people knew that the picnic was happening again this year, said Cheryl MacKenzie, chair of the Spirit of St. Albert Society, which organized the event.
“It was certainly about advertising and getting the word out. We need to be better at that and we certainly learned that,” she said.
The city’s first river valley picnic in 2011 was part of St. Albert’s 150th anniversary celebrations and benefitted from a robust, months-long marketing campaign. In contrast, the Spirit of St. Albert group had a much leaner advertising budget, MacKenzie said.
“We are a separately funded non-profit with the budget that goes with non-profit,” she said. “We spent $28,000 on a picnic this year whereas last year it was in the six digits and a big part of that was advertising with billboards.”
“From an operational perspective the picnic couldn’t have gone any better,” MacKenzie said. “I made a point of driving along the trail and stopping and talking to people that were sitting on benches to see what they thought, and it was incredibly positive and a lot of ‘thank yous’ to our volunteers for giving their time.”
Margaret Plain, chair of the former 150th anniversary committee, said that last year’s picnic involved a huge number of organizations and about 400 volunteers.
This year, organizers had 78 volunteers working to put on the event. MacKenzie said the event had a great group donating their time, including a large youth component, and even entire families volunteering together.
The 150th anniversary celebration events were created with an eye to developing legacies, Plain said, but no initiatives were specifically marked as annual events going forward. It was the Spirit of St. Albert group that decided to carry on the River Valley Picnic.
“The Spirit of St. Albert committee knew they wouldn’t be able to replicate in total what had happened in 2011,” Plain said, “but they wanted to make sure that it continued in some form and they’re to be commended for doing that.”