When you think about it, festivals are key to Canada’s post-pandemic recovery. And with summer just around the corner, peak festival time is here. In the Sturgeon Country area, Morinville Festival Days is back as a boisterous as ever.
For two days, today and Sunday, residents and visitors can take in a pancake breakfast, an orienteering hunt, a window-painting search, a garden mystery, a virtual talent show, the farmers’ market, and a drive-in movie.
Last year the festival was canceled due to COVID-19. The June festival has been around a long time under various names and it's not going anywhere. By now it’s a well-oiled machine run by a town that relies on a dedicated, imaginative core of staff and volunteers to make it happen.
Ryan Telfer, events and culture co-ordinator at Morinville Cultural Centre, has managed to pivot the festival into a community-wide event while keeping health safety intact. Additionally, the free festival is about bringing back energy and vibrancy to the community.
“As summer rolls around, many of us look forward to doing things. We’ve been hunkered down in our homes for the past year, and we wanted to give people an opportunity to enjoy something. It’s about lifting everybody up and having fun. As steward of this festival, I wanted to make sure there was something for everyone,” said Telfer.
In 2020, the pandemic forced the Town of Morinville to lay off 90 per cent of its community services staff, including Telfer. He was recalled to work in June 2020 and set about planning self-directed or drive-thru events for the pandemic’s duration.
He said both the self-directed Snowman Festival in February and the drive-thru French Heritage Celebration in March were highly successful.
A drive-thru breakfast kicks off the festivities this morning from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Mayor Barry Turner and several councillors will serve a breakfast cooked by Flare Catering.
On both Saturday and Sunday, Telfer has booked an orienteering challenge in partnership with Edmonton Overlanders Orienteering Club and Kids Run Wild.
“We’ve had a month-long orienteering event. You get a map from the rec department that specifies different locations with questions and answers. There’s a decal or a plaque at each location. Once you find all the locations, you put the questions and answers together,” he said.
For the festival, the orienteering project is amped up with six additional locations. Anyone who submits the correct answers is entered in a draw to win a $50 gift certificate from a Morinville retailer.
Telfer, who participated in orienteering as a boy scout, said this event differs from typical festival events.
“It’s a get-out-and-explore kind of an event. You learn map-reading skills and you’re out in the fresh air. Being able to read a map is an essential skill. You might not always have access to a cellphone.”
Over at the Morinville Cultural Centre, the town hired a visual artist to sketch out a window painting depicting people enjoying a day of summer fun. Residents are asked to count the partially hidden maple leaves and enter the numbers online for a $50 draw.
“It’s like a mural. I like the vibrancy. There’s lots of colour. There are animals and diverse people at a swimming pool and flying a kite. It’s really attractive and catches the eye.”
Telfor is also editing together a series of performance submissions for viewing today and Sunday on the town's website.
Community garden volunteers have constructed a garden mystery message hunt for decoders.
“They’ve created a code, a cipher that corresponds to a letter or word. The decoders go into the garden and locate painted rocks that match the symbols. You fill in a decoding sheet and discover the message.”
Playing a key role at the festival is the Sunday drive-in movie, Raya and the Last Dragon, released in March. The 90-minute Disney movie takes viewers to the fantasy world of Kumandra where Raya, a lone girl-warrior tracks down a dragon to banish evil and restore her fractured land to peace.
Mounted at the Morinville Leisure Centre, the film will be screened on a Titan Mobile LED Screen, the largest portable film screen in North America.
“It’s a full LED screen from M31 Design in Edmonton. It comes on the back of a semi that unfolds, so it’s about 22 feet (six metres) tall and 39 feet (12 metres) wide. Because it’s full LED lights, it’s viewable during the day. Considering we’re showing it (on) one of the longest days of the year, it’s pretty impressive.”
Raya and the Last Dragon has three screenings: 1:30 p.m.; 3:30 p.m.; and 6:30 p.m. Movie attendees require a FM radio in their vehicles for audio reception.
No food will be served. Although the entire festival is free, organizers are asking attendees to bring donations for the Morinville Food Bank.