While the change in government following the last provincial election was welcomed in some quarters, for Tom Bulmer, the co-chair of the Vanderhoof International Air Show, it seems to have created a serious threat to the viability of the much-loved event.
“As of right now, we’re just not seeing the level of support from the B.C. government that we’ve had in the past,” said Bulmer.
“John Rustad, the MLA for the region, is no longer a member of the government and is in opposition so, for us, the process for funding just got a lot harder.”
Bulmer explained that, in the past, the air show organizers would simply give their “ask” to Rustad who would “Go down there (to Victoria) and come back with some money”.
“That hasn’t happened this time out,” said Bulmer.
“We reached out to Carol James (who serves as Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance in the NDP government led by John Horgan) and haven’t had any success.”
The group also reached out to Lisa Beare, the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture in a January 23 letter to her office.
On Feb. 23, Bulmer received correspondence within what appeared to be a hastily scrawled envelope that referenced the Tourism Events Program (TEP) and read, in part:
“Based on the information in your letter, the Vanderhoof International Air Show would be an eligible applicant for the program. Although the costs associated with the operational expenses such as fuel, accommodation and performers are not eligible expenses under the TEP, your event could apply for funding related to promotion, advertising and broadcasting activities.”
The letter was signed by Suzanne Ferguson, the Executive Director of the Tourism Branch of the government.
“That really helps us very little as it excludes our largest area of expenditure,” explained Bulmer.
“This is the first year that we’ve had the full cooperation of the Canadian Armed Forces, and they are sending us the Snowbirds, the CF18 demo team, as well as the Skyhawk (parachute) Team. That’s going to be huge in allowing us to put on a world class show but it means we have to come up with 58 hotel rooms for just the military participants. The letter says we can’t use any grant money to pay for that and a lot of other of the largest areas of cost for the show.”
The $200,000 budget for the airshow is, however, receiving the support of the community in the form of donations from local businesses.
On Wednesday (March 7) Allan Bieganski, the general manager of Four Rivers Co-Op presented air show organizers with a cheque for $10,000 in support of their efforts.
“This is a great addition to the community and an event that people in Vanderhoof and all around the area look forward to. We’re proud to help support their efforts,” said Bieganski.
The donation will be added to the roughly $50,000 in donations already received from area businesses and others but Bulmer is hopeful that the provincial government will reconsider its position and is actively pursuing other avenues to access funding from that source.
“We’re not going to give up. This is a fantastic event for the community and for drawing tourists to our area as well. We’ve gone to a lot of effort to provide a world class event and to keep the costs for attendance way down so it’s available to everyone ,” said Bulmer.
Tickets are only $10 for adults and children are admitted at no cost.
The airshow has been in operation since 2012 and for three years it operated exclusively in Vanderhoof. After 2014 the show began to alternate between Vanderhoof and Quesnel as that community was running it’s own air show at about the same time and it made little sense to compete with one another, said Bulmer.
“Last year was supposed to be Quesnel’s year, but because of the forest fires, the event was not held. We’re returning with it this year in Vanderhoof, and it’s going to be the most amazing show yet.”
The International Airshow is slated to take place on August 4.
More information on the air show, as well as how community residents and businesses can help to make the show a success, is available on facebook at facebook.com/VanderhoofAirshow/ or by contacting Bulmer directly at email@example.com.