There are several givens about the month of March in Olds. The weather will be unpredictable, hockey playoffs will be an ongoing event and the Olds and District Kiwanis Music Festival will make its annual appearance on the local arts and entertainment scene.
This year's festival will begin this Friday at the Fine Arts and Multi-media Centre on the Community Learning Campus, and runs until Saturday, March 26 with 739 entries in various categories in musical theatre, senior vocals, choir, band/instrumentals, speech, junior vocals, strings, junior piano and senior piano.
“It's about a normal festival year for us,” explained festival coordinator Wendy Durieux. “It'll be about 2,800 participants once you count all the bands and all the choirs … and that's what I have to sit down and figure out because they enter as one but they could actually be 60 (members).”
The challenge this year is dealing with a condensed schedule, which will see the festival run for 14 days over 16 calendar days.
Reasoning behind the condensed schedule centres on mitigating the impact on some high school classes that are essentially evicted from the facility for the duration of the festival. It's a slight departure from past festivals that ran exclusively on weekdays because of its usage of area churches.
“In times past we have gone mainly the weekdays because we've used the churches and Saturdays and Sundays tend to be quite busy days for (the churches) … so now that we're over at the new fine arts building it actually works better for them and us if we use it a little bit more on the weekends,” Durieux said. “That's what we're trying to do, so that we're not kicking the kids out … and trying to free up a little bit more school time.”
The tighter schedule won't have an impact on the adjudicators because they tended to have their sessions grouped regardless, but it will mean some longer days at the facility as well as having Saturday sessions.
“For us it was all about seeing how we could use the Saturday, how we could use more evenings and that sort of thing,” Durieux said.
While this year's entry list is up over last year, it still falls short of the all-time entries record. In 1994 the festival had 923 entries, something that won't be matched for years to come as organizers feel the event is nicely manageable at current levels.
Helping to bring the numbers up slightly this year was an increase in the amount of entries in speech and strings categories.
“It was nice to see those numbers recover a bit this year,” said Durieux.
This year will mark the second year where the festival is full-time at the CLC based facility. One of the bonuses of moving to a single location has been the reduction in cost for bringing in pianos for the festival.
With two instruments on site at the fine arts centre, the committee sees about a $2,000 saving on moving costs associated with bringing in pianos.
“Even though the pianos were donated (in the past), we had to pay to have them transported,” Durieux enthused.
As always, the festival will feature its hallmark events – the Musical Theatre Showcase and the Grand Concert. The wildly popular showcase is Saturday, March 19 at 7 p.m. in the TransCanada Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students, and normally sell out rapidly due to high demand.
The Grand Concert is the same time and venue but on Tuesday, March 29, with tickets the same cost as the musical theatre showcase.
Tickets for both events are available at the door and during the festival.
For more, including a complete schedule, visit the festival website at oldskiwanis.org/musicfestival.