NNSL Photo/Graphic

NNSL photo/graphic

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Spring festival desperate for help
Toonik Tyme running with only two board members and shortage of volunteers

Stewart Burnett
Northern News Services
Saturday, February 13, 2016

If it's going to continue beyond this year, Toonik Tyme needs help.

NNSL photo/graphic

Arviat singer-songwriter Jo Ellen Etuangat performs at the Toonik Tyme opening ceremonies in 2010. The annual festival is in severe need of volunteers. - NNSL file photo

Lack of volunteers and only a two-member board pushed Toonik Tyme Society president Travis Cooper to appeal to Iqaluit city council Feb. 9 for help, or even a takeover.

"What we really need are individuals within the community and individuals who are serving as council members to come in and serve on our board," Cooper told Nunavut News/North following his appearance as a delegation to council.

"That way, we're staying in line with our own bylaws and with the Societies Act. You can't run a society with two individuals - you need a full board. That's the situation we're in at this time."

With plans for this year's Toonik Tyme mostly already in place, Cooper is looking mainly to 2017 and beyond. He wants city commitment on the board or even a city takeover of the spring festival.

"Whichever option that the city would like to go ahead and take, I'll support it and I'll be there to make sure that the festival continues on every year, as long as I'm involved in some way," he said.

Cooper adds that he's cognizant that people are very busy in Nunavut and volunteering takes a lot of commitment. But with such a small board, the society is overburdened with work and in serious need of help.

"It's something that we're hoping that more people will go ahead and take interest in to ensure that we're able to go ahead and properly provide something as amazing as Toonik Tyme, which is a great cultural showcase for this territory and Canada as a whole," he said.

Lack of Inuit involvement on the board has been an issue too, he added, especially considering the desire to have the event reflect the true culture of Inuit.

"It's a cultural event and we're showcasing our culture," said Cooper. "The more people we have who grew up in and know the traditions and bring in multiple perspectives, the more enriched we all are."

Annual costs for the event are around $80,000 to $90,000, he told council. It's not money the society is lacking, he clarified, but manpower.

Toonik Tyme, now in its 51st year, is about the community coming together after the harsh winter, said Cooper.

"We need that spirit to come back again, everybody coming together and ensuring the success of this festival."

Coun. Romeyn Stevenson said, "It seems obvious that it's not sustainable," with the struggles the festival has had. But he didn't want to make a rush decision on whether the city should take it over or not.

The issue was deferred to the city's recreation committee.

Cooper thanked the city for everything it does and hopes to find more volunteers.

"We'll never turn anybody away that wants to help out," he said.

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