FEST FEATURE: A street party and an economic engine 0
By Lorne Stelmach
The signs are all there, and it is unmistakable at this time of the year as Morden starts getting spruced up.
Soon, people will start rolling into town with their campers, and family and friends will be gathering.
For Ross Ariss, that is ultimately what the Corn and Apple Festival is all about.
The festival committee chairperson says Morden's signature event is about community and the level of excitement and enthusiasm for the event is what draws him.
"What I really enjoy is the energy that basically takes over that whole entire week," Ariss commented recently as organizers and volunteer made final preparations for the weekend of August 24 to 26.
"For a personal highlight, it really is just the sheer ability of a community when everybody gets working in the same direction, to put things together like this."
Chairing the committee for a second year, Ariss said the success of the festival appearss deceptively simple - it's fun and it's free - but there is a lot of year-round planning that goes into it.
And he suggested its importance to the community shouldn't be understated.
"The festival, first and foremost, is a street party. It's a get-together, it's a reunion for family and friends. And for the community to support that is a wonderful thing," he commented.
"But it's also an incredible economic engine that provides immense activity for the area ... not just for Morden but for the Pembina Valley as well," he added.
"And I think that's one thing we always have to remember ... the reason why local businesses sponsor this and the reason localbusiness people get behind this event is it's good for Morden. It's good for business. And it puts Morden on the map."
Ariss said the festival is a great example of what can be done through teamwork and community spirit.
"At the end of the day, there's a huge workforce of people involved ... there's a ton of experience on the board ... on the committee ... and really it's the strength of those people that make the job easy," he said
And consider the army of volunteers who are involved in making it happen, he added.
"You're looking at ... at least close to 500 committee volunteers working on this throughout the year ... and that number goes up as we get closer to the festival. And then if you add up the other volunteers for the other organizations ... like the local service clubs and the local church organizations ... it's got to be close to 1,000 people."
Ariss said it has been worthwhile to see the growth of the festival through the years, and one of the questions always faced by organizers is what else can the festival do and where does it go from here?
For the short term future, he noted they are four years away from the 50th anniversary "so I hope we can start to put together a solid plan for something special."
"I think what we always have to focus on is the event experience for the visitors," he suggested.
"We're a growing town. Every year, we have something else to offer, something more to offer. I think that should always coincide with any future growth of the festival.
"I think the bottom line is the recipe for the festival has proven to be very successful, so changing it any great amount has to be done very carefully," Ariss said.
"I think the addition of quality satellite events that are coinciding and happening around and in partnership with the festival would be something we can do. As far as expanding anything downtown, our space is very limited.
"I think we have to focus on the event experience What that means, first and foremost, is capital infrastructure being improved," he concluded.
"When a visitor comes to an event and they see the organization and the quality of what the entire town has put into the weekend, it goes a long way."