The Bala Cranberry Festival is spreading Christmas cheer this week, distributing funds to successful applicants of their Community Funding program.
In 2016 the festival will be awarding over $35,000 to 26 local groups, providing much needed funding to programs that benefit Muskoka Lakes Township and its residents.
The funding will go to support important initiatives in the local area including the Meals on Wheels for both Bala and Wahta, a number of local youth sport organizations, and community services such as the Bala Library, Bala Santa Claus Parade, and public skating at the arena for residents during the Christmas and March Break holidays.
“Not many people that visit the Bala Cranberry Festival are aware of this incredible give-back to the local community,” explains Tiffany Bol, President of the board. “The festival was founded on the core values of improving the quality of life in our community, and we are honoured to continue this legacy.”
Another $4,000 is being awarded to students from Muskoka Lakes Township that are pursuing postsecondary education through the Scholarship and Bursaries program. The Scholarship and Bursary program will have another intake in 2017 for the fall term.
It is estimated that initiatives including paid parking lots and local rental fees generated another $10,000 for local community groups. Local merchants reported that the 3 day festival is traditionally their highest grossing 3 day sales period of the year. The Board is reporting one of the most successful Festival weekends to date.
The combination of perfect weather and stunning fall colours brought the crowds out in droves on Saturday, with an estimated 12,000 visitors trekking to the small town of 500 to celebrate the cranberry harvest.
The Board did note that total paid admissions on Saturday do not reflect the estimated total. “There is a concern that visitors do not understand where the money from the festival goes and forego paying admission,” says Tiffany Bol. “We hope that by explaining the tremendous benefits the festival provides to our local community, this problem of unpaid admissions will become less of an issue in the future.”
Revenues generated from admission are also put towards costs that come with running a festival of this magnitude, including entertainment throughout the weekend, the headliner concert Hotel California at The Kee to Bala, transportation and buses, facility rentals, infrastructure and marketing.
The Board of Directors would like to send their sincerest thanks to all of the volunteers that helped out, recognizing that it is this community spirit that keeps this one-of-a-kind festival going.
Anyone interested in joining a planning committee for 2017 is encouraged to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The AGM is scheduled for February 9, 2017, with more details to come.
(Photo of recipients who gathered this week in Bala via Muskoka News Watch)