Over the past 10 years, the Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival has grown from humble beginnings into a well-known three-day event attracting more than 60,000 visitors.
As the pavilions move to larger venues, expand their menus and attract special entertainment, there’s no doubt many groups are bringing in a fair profit.
The City of Brandon does not require financial statements from the pavilions, only the accounting of how their city grant was spent.
To help pavilions get off the ground, the city provides “seed money” — a $2,000 grant for first-time pavilions, $1,500 for the second year and $1,000 for each following year. Groups are required to submit accounting of how the subsidy was spent by March 15 of each year.
“It’s only to get them started, they need to build enough of a sustainability factor into their pavilion so that the following year they can do more,” said Esther Bryan, past-chair of the festival.
Each pavilion is responsible for clearing off their outstanding debt by June 30 of each year in order to be allowed to participate in the next year’s festival.
“If somebody has an outstanding debt, they will contact us and say ‘these guys haven’t paid,’ so we’re reactive, we’re not proactive,” Bryan said. “It’s up to each pavilion and it’s a small community.”
Bryan said financial statements aren’t required, as funds above and beyond the subsidy do not involve the city.
“It’s the volunteers and it is their societies or their organizations that are doing that,” Bryan said. “We don’t dictate how you get your money, we don’t say this is what you charge for food or this is what you charge for your liquor or any of those things, that’s not the intent of the organizing group.”
Many pavilion committees have built up their own sponsorship and receive gifts-in-kind.
“We don’t ask them to tell us what their expenses are because a lot of it is gifted, a lot of it is volunteer,” she said.
Some groups are able to bring entertainers from overseas or provide a stage for local performers, elaborate costumes and sound systems.
“If they’ve got it down that they can financially afford to do those things then we give them kudos,” Bryan said. “To say, ‘Well how much did you actually spend?’ seems harsh … we ask them to let us know if they’ve had any issues.”
The Brandon Sun made calls to several pavilion organizers, who wouldn’t disclose last year’s profits.
John Arrell, vice-president and treasurer of the Irish Society of Western Manitoba, did say that the Irish pavilion has handed out more than $81,000 in donations to local charities since 2003. Last year, they donated $15,000 to eight different charities.
“We figure, we get such good support from the community that we like to put our surplus back into the community,” he said.
Arrell said they typically keep a small amount, roughly $4,000 to $5,000 to get them started for the next year.
“There’s a lot of food and decorations and stuff like that to be purchased to get us off the ground,” he said.
Mo Karrouze of the English pavilion said they use their profits to make donations to families in need, school breakfast programs and other local charities.
“We do it quietly,” he said. “We’re not one of those ones that stand up in the paper with the cheque.”
Karrouze said they also put some funds aside to help get the following year’s festival going.
Ukrainian pavilion co-ordinator Hilliard Sawchuk said their funds are divided and given out to different groups who give out to charities.
“We have a men’s club, for example, last year they donated $10,000 to the church for the church painting,” he said.
Funds also go toward hall operations and the Troyanda School of Ukrainian Dance.
“There’s no individual that profits from this, it all goes to different groups,” he said, adding the money is used to promote local Ukrainian culture and events.